America’s Warner Bros. Years.
Somewhat confusingly, the America story began in London in 1971 where high school students Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek, and Gerry Beckley first met. Their fathers were all members of the US Air Force, and at that time, were stationed in London. Far from home, and strangers in a foreign country Dewey, Dan and Gerry soon became close friends. They had a lot common. Especially music.
It wasn’t long until Dewey, Dan and Gerry formed a group. They sung close vocal harmonies and quickly, honed their own sound. Early on, it was described as acoustic folk. This became popular around the London area, where they performed live. For the trio of high school students, things were happening fast.
By the time that Dewey, Dan and Gerry had graduated high school, Warner Bros. offered them a record band. For the nascent group, this was the stuff that dreams were made of. However, for America this was just the start of a roller coaster ride.
Between 1971 and 1976, America became one of the most popular bands on both sides of the Atlantic. They released six albums during this period. This included their eponymous debut album in December 1971.
Having signed to Warner Bros., the label didn’t waste time getting their latest signing into the studio. America had written twelve tracks for their eponymous debut album. Each member contributed to the America. Dewey Bunnell penned six tracks, Dan Peek three and Gerry Beckley three. These songs were recorded at two London studios.
Trident Studios and Morgan Studios were chosen for the recording of America. Producing America, was Ian Samwell, who already established a reputation as a talented producer. Keeping a close eye on proceeding was former dancer Jeff Dexter. He was America’s manager, and was credited as the executive producer of America. His clients were a talented trio.
This became apparent when recording of America began. The three members of America were all multi-instrumentalists. They played many of the instruments on America. Dewey Bunnell played acoustic guitar. Gerry Beckley played bass, six and twelve string acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano and chimes. Dan Peek bass, six and twelve string acoustic guitar, electric guitar and piano, When it came to the lead vocals, they were shared around. Usually, one member of America took the lead, while the other two added harmonies. However, on Riverside which opened America, the three members of America shared lead vocals. Augmenting America, were some session players including guitarist David Lindley and percussionist Ray Cooper. Once America was recorded, it was scheduled for release in December 1971.
Before the release of America, critics received an advance copy. When critics heard this new group’s debut album, they were quickly won over. While critical acclaim accompanied the release of America, some critics went as far as to call the album a “folk pop classic.” This was a huge call, but proved to be prescient.
When America was released on 29th December 1971, the album began climbing the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. In Britain, America’s adopted home, the album reached number five and was certified silver. However, in their home country, America reached number one in the US Billboard 200, and was certified platinum. Helping sales of the album were a classic single.
A Horse With No Name was chosen as the lead single from America. It was released on January 12th 1972, and reached number three in Britain and number one on the US Billboard 100. Elsewhere, A Horse With No Name was a huge hit single. However, it was in America where it was most successful. Having sold over a million copies, A Horse With No Name was certified platinum. For America, this wasn’t the end of the success.
I Need You was released on 26th April 1971, and reached number nine in the US Billboard 100. This was just the icing on the cake for America. They had just enjoyed a million selling single and album, both of which were being referred to as classics. Could things get any better?
After the success of America, the band returned to the studio in 1972. The pressure was on for America to prove that their debut album hadn’t been a fluke. Musical history was littered with bands who enjoyed one successful album, then faded away. America were determined not to join their ranks.
For their sophomore album Homecoming, the three members of America penned nine of the ten tracks. Each member contributed three tracks each. America the band, were a democracy. The other track on Homecoming was a cover of John Martyn’s Head and Heart. With the help of some top session players, these tracks became America’s sophomore album.
Among the session players, were Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine. He provided the heartbeat to nine of the tracks on Homecoming, which was being produced by America. For such a young group, this was seen as a brave or foolish decision.
Ironically, when critics heard Homecoming there was no criticism of the production. America’s decision to dispense with a producer had been vindicated. The only criticism of Homecoming was that some of the lyrics lacked depth. They veer towards banal, and can hardly be described as cerebral. Despite this, Homecoming received glowing reviews, and nowadays, is seen as one of their finest albums. Record buyers heard a sneak preview of Homecoming on September 19th 1972.
That’s when Ventura Highway was released as a single. It reached number forty-three in Britain and number eight in the US Billboard 100. This augured well for the release of Homecoming.
November 15th 1972 was the date that America had been waiting for. That was when their sophomore album was released. It was their production debut. They wondered how listeners would react to the change in sound. Although still based around the acoustic guitar, both the electric guitar and keyboards were more prominent. America hoped this stylistic departure wouldn’t alienate listeners.
It didn’t. Homecoming reached number twenty-one in Britain and number nine in the US Billboard 200. While Homecoming wasn’t as successful as America, the album was certified platinum in America. This was America’s second album that sold over a million copies. Elsewhere, America’s popularity was spreading. Homecoming was certified platinum in Australia and gold in Canada. Spurred on by this success, America released another single from Homecoming.
Don’t Cross the River was released on the 3rd January 1973, and reached number thirty-five in the US Billboard 100. This was disappointing for America. It was the least successful single of their career. Until America released Only in Your Heart. When it was released on April 14th 1973, it stalled at a lowly sixty-two in the US Billboard 100. Were there problems ahead for America?
Although Homecoming had been certified platinum, the commercial failure Don’t Cross the River and Only in Your Heart rankled with America. This made them doubly determined to return with another successful album. So they began work on their third album.
Eventually, Dewey Bunnell had penned four tracks, Gerry Beckley three and Dan Peek two. The three members of America penned Hat Trick, which lent its title to the album. Muskrat Love was the other song on Hat Trick. It had been penned by Willis Alan Ramsey. Originally, the song had been entitled Muskrat Candlelight, and featured on Willis Alan Ramsey’s 1972 eponymous debut album. However, when America recorded the song, they changed the title to Muskrat Love. Along with the other ten tracks, it was record at the Record Plant, Los Angeles.
Just like Homecoming, Hat Trick was produced by America. They brought onboard some high profile musicians to augment them. Drummer Hal Blaine, guitarist Joe Walsh and Beach Boys Bruce Johnston and Carl Wilson. They joined America as they recorded Hat Trick between 29th May and 12th July 1973. Once Hat Trick was recorded, the release was scheduled for October 19th 1973.
Before the release of Hat Trick, critics had their say. They weren’t impressed. The songwriting wasn’t on Hat Trick wasn’t the standard. Letting Hat Trick down were Green Monkey, Molten Love and Willow Tree Lullaby. These three tracks weren’t up to the standard critics expected of America. Nor were some of the tracks as melodic as America and Hat Trick. America seemed to have lost their folk rock mojo. Would this be reflected in sales of Hat Trick?
Muskrat Love had been released as a single on June 28th 1973, while America were still recording Hat Trick. It stalled at a disappointing sixty-seven in the US Billboard 100. When Hat Trick was released on October 19th 1973, it reached just forty-one in Britain and twenty-eight in the US Billboard 200. There was no third platinum disc for America. A small crumb of comfort was that Hat Trick was certified silver in Britain. That was as good as Hat Trick got for America.
When Rainbow Song was released later in 1973, it failed to chart. Green Monkey also failed to chart upon its release in 1974. For America, these were worrying times.
Following the relative failure of Hat Trick in America, America decided to bring onboard a producer. With technology playing an increasingly important part in the recording process, many thought that America would employ someone used to the latest technological advancements. Instead, they brought onboard someone who many regarded as an old school producer. However, forty-eight year old George Martin had an enviable track record.
He was the man who transformed the fortunes of The Beatles, taking them from relative unknowns to the biggest selling band in the world. If he could work his magic again, America’s career would be back on track.
For the first album in America’s George Martin era, America had written twelve tracks. Gerry Beckley had penned five tracks, Dewey Bunnell three and Dan Peek three. Dan also penned Lonely People with his wife Catherine Peek. These twelve tracks would accompany America to AIR Studios, London.
Recording of what became Holiday, began on April 17th and was completed on May 7th 1974. America played every instrument, apart from the drums. Willie Leacox was drafted in to add drums. Geoff Emerick engineered Holidays and George Martin arranged and produced the album. George Martin even added some keyboard tracks. Everything went smoothly, and in three weeks America’s fourth album Holiday was complete. Would it be their comeback album?
Critics decided that it was. America’s decision to bring George Martin onboard was a masterstroke. He brought out the group’s potential. For much of Hat Trick, it seemed to have lain dormant. Not any more. George Martin brought out the best in America, and the result was Holiday, an album that would appeal to a wide spectrum of record buyers.
Whether AOR, folk rock, pop or rock was their bag, record record buyers were won over by Holiday. It reached number three in the US Billboard 200 and number one on the Adult Contemporary charts. Holiday was certified gold in America and silver in Britain. America’s comeback was almost complete.
Tin Man was chosen as the lead single from Holidays. It was released on July 10th 1974, and reached number four in the US Billboard 100 and number one on the Adult Contemporary charts. Lonely People was released as a single on November 27th 1974, and reached number five in the US Billboard 100 and number one on the Adult Contemporary charts. Now America’s comeback was complete.
Following the success of Holiday, America were under pressure to record their fifth studio album. Less than two months after the release of Holiday, America were back in the studio with George Martin.
For Hearts, America had written twelve new tracks. Garry Beckley wrote just three tracks and Dewey Bunnell three. However, Dewey cowrote Dan Peek penned Midnight and The Story Of A Teenager. Dan Peek contributed three tracks, and cowrote Old Virginia with Catherine Peek. These twelve tracks wouldn’t be recorded in America with George Martin.
This time, George Martin decided to forsake his beloved AIR Studios for the sun of Sausalito, in California. That’s where The Record Plant was situated. It had quickly established a reputation as one of the top studios on the West Coast. The sessions began on January 6th 1975. George Martin arranged and produced Hearts. He even added piano. Engineer Geoff Emerick accompanied George Martin. Another familiar face was drummer and percussionist Willie Leacox. He had featured on Holiday. A newcomer was bassist David Dickey. Hearts was his first session with America and George Martin. Just like the last time, everything ran smoothly, and Hearts was completed on January 30th 1975. Less than two months later, Hearts was released on March 19th 1975.
When critics heard the George Martin produced Hearts, it didn’t elicit the same response as Holiday. Although reviews of Hearts were mostly positive, they weren’t as gushing as Holiday. Still, though, Hearts received the seal of approval from most critics. They saw Hearts as a B+ rather than an A.
Record buyers had a different view. When Hearts and the single were released on 19th March 1975, both proved a commercial success. Hearts reached number four on the US Billboard 200, and was certified gold. Sister Golden Hair reached number one in the US Billboard 100 and number five on the Adult Contemporary charts. It seemed the critics had been wrong.
Nearly four months later, Daisy Jane was released on 2nd July 1975, reached number twenty in the US Billboard 100 and number four on the Adult Contemporary charts. Woman Tonight then reached number forty-four in the US Billboard 100 and number forty-one on the Adult Contemporary charts. Although these two singles were only minor hits, FM radio latched onto several album tracks. Old Virginia, Bell Tree and Midnight were regularly played by FM DJs. The America success story continued apace.
History: America’s Greatest Hits.
Having released five studio album, and enjoyed eleven hit singles, Warner Bros. decided the time was right for America to release a Greatest Hits album. The release was scheduled for October 24th 1975.
When the twelve compilation hit the shops, History: America’s Greatest Hits became America’s biggest selling album. It reached number three in the US Billboard 200 and number sixty in Britain. This resulted in the album being certified silver in Britain. However, History: America’s Greatest Hits sold four million copies in America, and was certified platinum four times over. In Australian, History: America’s Greatest Hits was certified platinum six times over. Over the border, Canada’s love affair with America’s music continued, and the album was certified platinum. There was no sign of America’s popularity declining. Far from it.
So just three months after the release of History: America’s Greatest Hits, America began work on their sixth album. They had written thirteen new tracks for what would become Hideaway.
Gerry Beckley had written four tracks, Dewey Bunnell five and Dan Peek three tracks. Jet Boy Blue, the other song on Hideaway was a Dan and Catherine Peek composition. These twelve tracks were recorded in Colorado.
America and producer George Martin made the journey to Caribou Ranch, in Nederland, Colorado. It housed the studio built by James William Guercio in 1972. He had produced Chicago’s early albums. His other credits included sunshine pop group The Buckinghams and Blood, Sweat and Tears. However, one of James William Guercio’s finest hours was Blood, Sweat and Tears’ 1969 eponymous sophomore album. It won a Grammy Award. Seven years later, the thirty-one year old producer owned his own studio, and had been joined by America and George Martin.
Recording began on February 16th 1976, and followed a similar pattern to Holiday and Hearts. America played most of the instruments, apart from bass and drums. So drummer and percussionist Willie Leacox and bassist David Dickey were brought onboard. By February 28th 1976, Hideaway was complete. Its release was scheduled for the 9th April 1976.
That left less than two months to promote and release Hideaway. It wasn’t a lot of time, but wasn’t unusual in the seventies. Somehow, the record was mastered, the sleeve designed, promoted and copies sent out to critics.
When critics received their copy of Hideaway, most of them gave the album positive reviews. Some critics felt Hideaway wasn’t America’s strongest album. They weren’t shy about saying so. However, the critics had been proved wrong before. Hearts was a case in point.
So was Hideaway. It was released on 9th April 1976, and reached number eleven in the US Billboard 200. Having sold 500,000 copies, it was certified gold. This success continued when Today’s The Day was released on April 28th 1976. While it only reached number twenty-three on the US Billboard 100, it topped the Adult Contemporary charts. Four months later, She’s A Liar stalled at seventy-five in the US Billboard 100 and number seventeen in the Adult Contemporary charts. While this was a disappointing end to 1976, America were still a favourite of FM radio, with Jet Boy Blue and Don’t Let It Get You Down favourites of DJs. Commercially, 1976 had been a relatively good year for America.
The only cloud on the horizon was that Hideaway had sold less copies than Hearts. It had sold less copies than Holiday. However, Holiday sold more copies of Hat Trick. As America headed out on tour that wasn’t the only thing worrying them.
America were finding it hard to replicate George Martin’s arrangements live. So America decided to augment their live lineup. Percussionist Tom Walsh and keyboardist and saxophonist Jim Calire joined America on tour. Hopefully, their 1976 tour would improved sales of Hideaway.
Although America’s 1976 tour proved reasonably successful, as the tour ended, still the sales of Hideaway were less than Hearts. This was disappointing. Little did America know that things were going to get a lot worse.
From their 1971 eponymous debut, right through to 1976s Hideaway, it had been mostly smooth sailing for America. The only disappointment was Hat Trick. However, when George Martin was brought onboard, America never looked back. Commercial success and critical acclaim accompanied them. America had sold over 5.5 million albums in America alone since George Martin’s arrival. He had been a godsend for America. Without him, their career could’ve hit the buffers. He produced three consecutive gold albums. Could he make it four?
America had been writing their seventh album Harbor, before heading to the Ka Lae Kiki Studios, Kauai, Hawaii. Just like their six previous studio albums, each member of America contributed tracks. Gerry Beckley penned five tracks, Dewey Bunnell three and Dan Peek four. With Harbor written, America made the short journey to Hawaii.
Recording began in late 1977 at Ka Lae Kiki Studios. Harbor was the fourth America album George Martin had produced. They had all been certified gold. He was joined by some familiar faces. Drummer Willie Leacox and bassist David Dickey had played on previous America albums. Percussionist Tom Walsh had been part of America’s touring band. Larry Carlton, although an experienced musician, had never worked with America. He was a guitarist, but on Harbor, played electric sitar. This was new, and added an experimental sound. Maybe this should’ve been a warning of what was about to happen.
Once Harbor was completed, Warner Bros. scheduled the release for 15th February 1977. Harbor, with its mixture of pop, rock and soft rock wasn’t well received by critics. They recognised that Harbor was easily, the worst album of America’s career.
Despite the reviews of Harbor, when the album was released on 15th February 1977, it reached number twenty-one on the US Billboard 200. Sales were way down, and there was no gold disc for America. To make matters worse, the singles flopped.
God of the Sun was chosen as the lead single. When it was released in April 1977, it failed to chart. Two months later, Don’t Cry Baby also failed to chart. Then later in 1977, Slow Down became America’s third consecutive single not to chart. By then, three had become two.
Dan Peek had had a crisis of conscience. After years of enjoying the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, Dan became a Christian. This was nothing new. He had been a Christian before finding fame and fortune with America. However, his faith had lapsed and Dan dabbled in drugs. Not any more. Now he had returned to the Christian fold, Dan was determined not to put temptation his way. So he left America.
When Dan left America, it was with Dewey and Gerry’s blessing. However, this presented a problem for Dewey and Gerry. Did they remain a duo or recruit a new member of America. After some careful consideration, they decided to remain a duo. The first many people heard of the “new” America, was when they heard America Live.
Just a couple of months after America were reduced to a duo, Gerry and Dewey journeyed to Los Angeles on July 24th 1977. Their destination was the Greek Theatre, where America were due to record a live album.
For America Live, fourteen tracks were chosen. Seven were penned by Dewey Bunnell and six by Gerry Beckley. The other was Willis Alan Ramsey’s Muskrat Love. Accompanied by their touring band, the “new” America recorded their first live album. It would be released in October 1977.
America Live wasn’t well received by critics. The loss of Dan Peek had proved costly. Now that America were a duo, gone were their trademark close vocal harmonies. While backing vocalists could try and make up for Dan’s loss, they didn’t come close. America weren’t the same band.
Record buyers turned their back on America. America Live reached just a lowly 129 in the US Billboard 200. Even in Australia, where America were popular, America Live stalled at just seventy-four. America’s career was at a crossroads. Could George Martin come to America’s rescue?
Silent Letter was the last album produced by George Martin, It was recorded at AIR Studios, Montserrat during March and April of 1979. Over eleven tracks, America embraced disco and power ballads. It was a last gasp attempt to get their career back on track.
Ultimately, this desperate throw of the dice failed. Critics were far from impressed by Silent Letter. They realised it was a far cry from America’s first two albums. 1971s America and its 1972 followup Homecoming, were the finest albums of America’s career. Silent Letter was the low point.
As the reviews forecast, when Silent Letter was released on June 15th 1979, it reached a lowly 110 in the US Billboard 200. To make matters worse, the lead single Only Game in Town failed to chart. So did All My Life and All Around. However, All My Life reached forty-eight in the Adult Contemporary charts. Then in 1980, All Around reached forty-five in the Adult Contemporary charts. That was the end of America’s Warner Bros. years.
The Warner Bros. years were the best years of America’s career. For much of that time, America’s albums were released to commercial success and critical acclaim. Their first seven studio albums sold over 4.5 million albums. That’s no surprise.
During their time Warner Bros., America released the best music of their career. Their first seven studio albums and Live America are documented on America-The Warner Bros. Years 1971-1977. 1971s America begins the America story, and was the most successful album of America’s career. However, their 1972 sophomore album Homecoming is regarded by many as their finest hour. Unlike 1973s Hat Trick, which saw America’s career briefly derailed. It took producer George Martin to get America’s career back on track.
From 1974s Holiday through 1975s Hearts to 1976s Hideaway, George Martin seemed to be working his magic. All seemed to be going well. Holiday, Hearts and Hideaway were all certified gold. However, Hearts sold less that Holiday. Then Hideaway sold less than Holiday. Executives at Warner Bros. looked on with concern. Then Harbor became America’s least successful album since 1973s Hat Trick. Just as things couldn’t get any worse, Dan Peek left.
With America reduced to a duo, it was the end of an era. Their first live album, America Live failed commercially. That was a sign of what was to come from America.
Fortunately, America only owed Warner Bros. one album. Silent Letter proved a disappointing end to a relationship that lasted eight studio albums, a live album and a greatest hits album. After over 8.5 million record sales, two platinum and three gold discs, America left Warner Bros. It had been an incredible journey that lasted eight years.
Little did America realise when they left Warner Bros. and signed to Capitol, that they would never experience the same commercial success and critical acclaim. Incredibly, Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell were only twenty-seven. They had their whole life in front of them. While they persevered with America for another four decades, America’s best years were behind them. They took place at Warner Bros. between 1971-1977.
America’s Warner Bros. Years..
The Enigmatic William Onyeabor
Enigmatic. That was the perfect word to describe synth funk pioneer, William Onyeabor who died on January 16th 2017 aged just seventy. Nigerian music lost a musical pioneer. However, William Onyeabor was, without doubt, one of the most mysterious and elusive musicians in musical history. There’s a good reason for this, Much of William Onyeabor’s life was shrouded in mystery. After releasing eight albums between 1978 and 1985, William Onyeabor became a born-again Christian. He turned his back on music and refused to talk about his life or music. In some ways, this helped perpetuate the myths surrounding William Onyeabor.
With William Onyeabor refusing to discuss his past, numerous rumours surrounded his life after music. Rumours were rife about what happened next. Some believe William studied cinematography in the Soviet Union, then returned to Nigeria, where he founded his own film company, Wilfilms. Then there’s the rumour that William studied law in England, then became a lawyer in his native Nigeria. Others believe William became a businessman in Nigeria. According to other people, William worked for the Nigerian government. No-one can say with any degree of certainty. The only person who knew what happened next, was William Onyeabor.
William Onyeabor however, wasn’t for telling. Thirty-nine after William Onyeabor found religion, and turned his back on music, he’s still refusing to discuss his past. This means still, little is known about Nigerian music’s most enigmatic musicians, William Onyeabor. The effect this has, is to perpetuate the myth of William Onyeabor. He was a a musical riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Sadly, the death of William Onyeabor means that this riddle will never be solved. There’s no clues in William Onyeabor’s biography.
Trying to write an accurate biography of William Onyeabor is almost impossible. Especially when William Onyeabor refused to talk about his past. There are some things we can say with a degree of certainty. The first is that growing up, William Onyeabor was a talented musician.
Prior to his death, nobody even knew William Onyeabor’s date of birth. Only William Onyeabor and he won’t say. It was speculated that he was born in 1944 However, it turned out that William Onyeabor was born on March 26th 1946. He was brought up Enugu, in the Nigerian provinces. Growing up, William Onyeabor showed an interest in music.
Soon, William was hooked. Music began to play a bigger part in his life. Before long, he realised listening to music was one thing. He wanted to make music. So he decided it was tine to learn how to play an instrument. It’s thought that the first instrument William learnt to play were keyboards. That was his musical weapon of choice. Before long, it became apparent that William Onyeabor was a talented musicians. Some people thought that when William Onyeabor left school, he would make a living out of music. They were in for a surprise.
When William was a teenager and ready to leave high school, it’s thought he was awarded a scholarship to study cinematography in the old Soviet Union. That may, however, be one of the myths surrounding William Onyeabor.
Anyone who has a copy of William Onyeabor’s 1977 debut album, Crashes in Love, will see he is described as an American and French trained filmmaker on the back cover. Crashes In Love is allegedly the soundtrack to the film of the same name. It’s meant to have been made by William’s own film company Winfilms. That however, is another of the controversies surrounding William Onyeabor.
On his return to his native Nigeria, William Onyeabor founded his own film company, Winfilms. Between 1977 and 1985, when William’s career was at its height, people speculated whether Winfilms released any films? It was known if Winfilms had even released a film? Since then, efforts have been made to trace whether Winfilms released any films. There has been no trace of Winfilms releasing any films. That includes Crashes in Love. It’s billed as “a tragedy of how an African princess rejects the love that money buys.” However, another company William Onyeabor founded was more active and successful.
Winfilms wasn’t the only company William Onyeabor founded. No. A subsidiary of Winfilms, Wilfims Records released William Onyeabor’s eight albums. They were recorded at Winfilms Recording Studio in Enugu, Nigeria. William Onyeabor’s debut album was 1978s Crashes In Love.
Crashes In Love.
Crashes In Love was released in 1978 on Wilfims Records. This was supposedly a soundtrack album. However, no trace of the film Crashes In Love has ever been traced. That’s not the only mystery surrounding William Onyeabor’s debut album Crashes In Love.
Seemingly, there are two versions of Crashes In Love in existence. There’s what’s known as the electronic version. It’s essentially a remix album. The four songs have added drumbeats. Then there’s the original version.
The original version of Crashes In Love has just five tracks. It opens with the ten minute spic Something You’ll Never Forget. After that, the music continues to be funky, soulful and dance-floor friendly. Especially Ride On Baby and Crashes In Love would showcase William Onyeabor’s trademark sound. However, with two version of Crashes In Love being released, it seems even mystery surrounds William Onyeabor’s debut album.
Following his debut album, William Onyeabor released his sophomore album Atomic Bomb in 1978. Featuring the Winfilms Resident Band, Atomic Bomb was groundbreaking, genre-sprawling album. Released on his own label, Wilfilms Records, William Onyeabor Atomic Bomb was a career defining album further established William’s reputation as a pioneering musician.
Atomic Bomb is one of those albums where there’s no weak tracks. It just oozes quality. From Beautiful Baby to the defiant, social comment of Better Change Your Mind and Atomic Bomb, William Onyeabor unleashes a series of musical tour de forces. They’re just three reasons why William Onyeabor would be hailed as one of the most innovative musicians with Nigeria in the late seventies. So is the understated, spacey lo-fi funk of Shame and I Need You All Life.
For the recording of his third album Tomorrow, William Onyeabor headed to the familiar surroundings of Wilfilms Studios Limited, Awakunanaw, Enugu. William had written another five tracks. They would feature what was his trademark sound.
Essentially, this was funk and soul fused with a pulsating Afro-beat beat. Sometimes, the female backing vocal took the music in the direction of gospel music. Especially when they sung call and response with William. The music was joyous and irresistible. What made William Onyeabor’s music stand out, were the banks of synthesisers. This was very different from most of the music coming out of Nigeria.
William it seemed, was determined to stand out musically. Tomorrow and Fantastic Man are proof of this. This is Why Go To War, one of many ant-war songs William recorded. His music had a social conscience. It was also evolving with each album. There was no chance of William Onyeabor standing still. That wasn’t his style. He was determined his music would continue to evolve. That would be the case as a new decade dawned.
Body and Soul.
For the cover of Body and Soul, William Onyeabor dawns a while suit and bow tie. This makes him resemble Lou Rawls. So when you drop the needle on The Way To Win Your Love, you’re expecting a slice of the smoothest soul. You’re in for a shock. It’s all beeps, squeaks from the music and sound-effects department of Wilfilms Ltd. Add to this stabs of horns and hissing hi-hats. After that, soul, funk and Afro-beat melt into one. This is the case right Poor Boy, Body and Soul and Believe In God, which provides a clue to William Onyeabor’s future.
Five years after the release of Body and Soul, William Onyeabor would become a born-again Christian. Was the release of Believe In God a hint of the direction William Onyeabor’s life was leading? He was certainly known for his anti-war songs and social conscience, but religion was apparently a new thing. Believe In God was just a hint that William Onyeabor was changing.
Just like Body and Soul, the cover of Great Lover is akin to a homage to the album covers of giants of American soul. William Onyeabor dawns a tuxedo and top hat on Great Lover. Wearing a watch that’s the size of a dinner plate, William Onyeabor looks urban and debonair. This is very different to the younger version of William Onyeabor that headed to the former Soviet Union to study cinematography. The image William Onyeabor is also very different to the reality of his life.
By 1981, when he released Great Lover, William Onyeabor wasn’t exactly a giant of Nigerian music. He was enjoying a modicum of success. However, he wasn’t one of Nigerian’s most successful musical exports. So it’s no wonder rumours continued to surround this mystery man. However, one thing wasn’t in doubt, William Onyeabor’s talent.
That’s apparent on the genre-hopping Great Lover. Elements of Afro-beat, Afro-Cuban, funk and soul melt into one during this concept album. Just like his previous albums, William Onyeabor is determined to innovate. He manages to do that on an album that’s soulful, funky and tinged with the influences of three continents.
In 1982, William Onyeabor was ready to release his sixth album, Hypertension. It marked a change of direction from the man they called a musical chameleon, William Onyeabor. He fused Afro-beat, funk, psychedelia, rock and even a hint of soul. This musical melange also so songs of praise and protest songs sit side-by-side. Hypertension was William Onyeabor his eclectic best.
From the opening bars of The Moon And The Sun, what was probably William Onyeabor’s most eclectic and ambitious album proved a musical mystery tour. After The Moon And The Sun gave way to Papa Na Mama and Hypertension, William’s social conscience shines through on Politicians. They’re far from William Onyeabor’s people. They’re to blame for Nigeria and the wider world’s problems. This impassioned track closes William Onyeabor’s most eclectic and innovative album Hypertension.
Little did anyone realise it, but 1983s Good Name would be the penultimate album William Onyeabor released. Good Name is a truly compelling album. Although it only features two tracks, where elements of Afro-beat, electronica and funk are fuses, these two tracks speak volumes.
On side one, William almost dawns the role of a preacher. The message he preaches is about Love. That he believes leads to peace, harmony and happiness. Then on side two, Williams sings about the importance of good name. It he believes is better than silver and gold. William reinforces this message by singing: “no money, no money, no money, Nn money can buy good Name.” Looking back, this could be seen as the beginning of a change in William Onyeabor. Maybe this was the start of William Onyeabor turning his back on music?
Anything You Sow.
If Good Name gave a hint of what was about to happen, Anything You Sow spelt it out in large letters. Given the title, Anything You Sow, it looks as if William was changing. Maybe he was on the verge of a spiritual awakening and was questioning the world around him? This would explain songs like When The Going Is Smooth and Good, This Kind Of World, Anything You Sow and Everyday?
A fusion of Afro-beat, funk and soul, the changes in William’s life didn’t affect the quality of music on Anything You Sow. William was continuing to push musical boundaries. He was determined, maybe even fearful of releasing music that didn’t evolve. There was no chance of that. Similarly, there was no hint of what was about to happen next.
Looking at the back cover to Anything You Sow, William Onyeabor continued to give an impression that Wilfilms Limited was an important, thriving company. It wasn’t a case of what Wilfilms Limited did, it was case of what they didn’t do.
Their services were listed as “recording and record manufacturing industry. Music, video and film producers.” They also had within their portfolio of business interests an office, factory and recording studios within the Wilfilms Complex. To the onlooker, it looked like William Onyeabor was on his way to building a business empire on the back of his recording career.
That’s what it’s claimed William Onyeabor had been doing. During the first half of the eighties, William Onyeabor opened a flour mill and food processing business. Both it’s claimed became flourishing businesses. Maybe the success of William Onyeabor’s business interests resulted in what happened next.
After the release of Anything You Sow in 1985, William Onyeabor turned his back on music. He became a born-again Christian. Since then, he has refused to discuss his music or his past. Both his musical career and his past are another country. Since then, rumours, myths and speculation have surrounded William Onyeabor.
After his death, it has been claimed that William Onyeabor being awarded West African Industrialist of the Year in 1987. It’s also been claimed that at that when William Onyeabor was at peak of his popularity, he was given the honorary title of Justice Of The Peace. Further claims include that he was president of Enugu’s branch of the Musician’s Union, and the chairman of Enugu Rangers his local football team. However, like other parts of William Onyeabor’s life it’s hard to substantiate fact from fiction.
Indeed, there were even rumours that William Onyeabor didn’t even exist and the music had been made by other people. William Onyeabor and all the myths and mystery were just part of a marketing strategy to sell records. This was just one of a myriad of rumours that surrounded William Onyeabor.
One of the most controversial parts of his life was where he studied.Which side of the Iron Curtain did William Onyeabor study? Originally, he claimed to have won a scholarship to study cinematography in the former Soviet Union. Then on his 1977 debut album Chains Of Love, which was the alleged soundtrack album, William Onyeabor claims to have studied cinematography in France and America. Just like the rest of his life, William Onyeabor refused to speak about this period of his life. So tight lipped was William Onyeabor, that he wouldn’t even confirm if he had ever made a film. As a result, allegations of the Russian connection in William Onyeabor’s life refuse to go away.
This is all part of the rumour, mystery and speculation that surrounds Nigerian synth funk pioneer, William Onyeabor who sadly, passed away on the 16th January 2017. Since then a few more details about William Onyeabor’s career have emerged since his death. Ironically, they have further fuelled the speculation surrounding William Onyeabor’s life after music. Alas, nobody will ever know exactly what happened to William Onyeabor after his sad and sudden retirement from music. Doubtless the speculation will continue. However, one thing that’s not in doubt is that William Onyeabor was a musical pioneer.
Over a seven-year period, William Onyeabor released eight innovative and inventive, groundbreaking, genre-melting albums. On each of these albums, was music that was way ahead of the musical curve. Everything from Afro-beat, cosmic funk, gospel, jazz, post-disco, proto-house, psychedelia, reggae, rock and soul was thrown into the melting pot by William Onyeabor. The music was the work of a musical visionary. That’s no exaggeration.
After all, how many people could successfully mix sci-fi synths with soul and jazz? William Onyeabor could, and does on Let’s Fall In Love. Then on Fantastic Man, William like a mystic, foresaw the changing of the musical guard. The ghost of disco passes the musical baton to Chicago house. This fusion of post-disco and proto-house demonstrates the versatility of William Onyeabor.
Indeed, William Onyeabor’s music evolves throughout the period between William released his 1978 debut album Crash In Love and 1983s Good Name. Whilst other artists were churning out albums of similar music, William was pushing musical boundaries. He wasn’t content to stand still. His nine albums are proof of this.
From 1980 onwards, his music evolved. It became much more reliant on synths, keyboards and drum machines. Sometimes, it’s best described as futuristic, with a sci-fi sound. An example of this is Let’s Fall In Love, from his 1983 album Good Name. Buzzing, sci-fi synths are key to the track’s futuristic sound. To this inventive track, somehow, William welds soul and jazz. It’s a combination that shouldn’t work, but does. In a way, it’s just one example of the genius of William Onyeabor, which was lost to music after his 1985 album Anything You Sow.
That William Onyeabor turned his back on music, is music’s loss. Who knows what heights of innovation and inventiveness William Onyeabor might have reached? Alas, we will never know. Sadly, William Onyeabor who was elusive and enigmatic musical visionary passed away on the 16th of January 2017. The death of William Onyeabor means that music has lost another pioneer. However, William Onyeabor leaves behind a rich a rich musical legacy for everyone to enjoy.
The Enigmatic William Onyeabor.
The Doobie Borther’ Warner Bros.Years’ 1970-1983.
Between 1972 and 1980, The Doobie Brothers could do no wrong when they released eight albums, which sold in excess of ten million copies. It was a roller coaster ride for The Doobie Brothers, whose recording career got off to an inauspicious start in 1971.
By then The Doobie Brothers had been a familiar face on the North California live scene. That had been the case since 1970. However, The Doobie Brothers’ roots can be traced to 1969.
That’s when drummer John Hartman made his way from Falls Church, Virginia, to Los Angeles. He was a man with a mission. John Hartman was determined to meet Skip Spence, Moby Grape’s legendary frontman.
John Hartman met Skip Spence, and was invited to join a newly reunited Moby Grape. That however, didn’t happen, At least Skiip Spence introduced John Hartman to a singer, songwriter and guitarist Tom Johnson. Little did anyone realise, that The Doobie Brothers had just been born,
John Hartman and Tom Johnson began experimenting musically, and were soon playing live around the San Jose area as Pud. That’s where the two members of Pud singer, songwriter and guitarist Patrick Simmons and bassist Dave Shogren.
Patrick Simmons had played in a number of groups, including Scratch, which coincidentally, featured future Doobie Brothers’ bassist, Tiran Porter. Meanwhile, Dave Shogren was The Doobie Brothers bassist, as they began to make a name for themselves around North California.
Whenever and wherever The Doobie Brothers played live, the venues sold out. The Doobie Brothers were particularly popular amongst the local Hell’s Angel’s chapters. That’s not surprising.
At this time, The Doobie Brothers’s were no different from the Hell’s Angels who came to see them play live. They wore leather jackets and rode motorbikes. This would change quite quickly, when The Doobie Brothers signed to Warner Bros. and released their eponymous debut album.
The Doobie Brothers.
Having established themselves on the North California live circuit, The Doobie Brothers quickly came to the attention of several record companies. Eventually, it was Warner Bros. who signed The Doobie Brothers in the second half of 1970. They didn’t waste time, and sent The Doobie Brothers into the studio on October 1970.
The four members of The Doobie Brothers were ready to begin work on what would be their debut album, The Doobie Brothers. Unlike many groups, The Doobie Brothers had two songwriters, Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons. However, for their debut album The Doobie Brothers, Tom Johnston penned seven of the ten tracks and Patrick Simmons just one. The other two songs were a cover Randy Newman’s Beehive State, and the traditional song Chicago. These ten tracks were recorded at Pacific Recording Studios, San Mateo, California.
Recording of The Doobie Brothers took place during October and Novmber of 1970. Warner Bros. had high hopes for their latest signing, so brought onboard Lenny Waronker and Ted Templeman to coproduce The Doobie Brothers. They would guide the four members of The Doobie Brothers through the recording of their eponymous debut album. This was unchartered territory for them.
Tom Johnston took charge of lead vocals, and played guitar, piano, harp and harmonica. Guitarist Patrick Simmons joined drummer John Hartman and bassist Dave Shogren in the rhythm section. However, Dave Shogren was more than a bassist. He played keyboards, organ and like the rest of The Doobie Brothers added backing vocals on The Doobie Brothers. It was released in April 1974.
Before that, critics had their say on The Doobie Brothers.With its country tinged sound and chugging guitars, The Doobie Brothers was described as country boogie, albeit with a hint of laid-back A.O.R. and rock. Reviews were mixed, ranging from disappointing to approving. Some critics felt that The Doobie Brothers were on the right lines with their fusion of country and rock, but that it would take two or three albums to hone and polish their sound. That proved to be the case.
Nobody was chosen as the lead single from The Doobie Brothers, but failed to chart in 1971. Neither did Travelin’ Man nor Beehive State. However, when Nobody was reissued in 1974, it reached number fifty-eight in the US Billboard 100. After the disappointment of Nobody, The Doobie Brothers, was released in April 1971. It stalled at 208 in the US Billboard 200. This was doubly disappointing for The Doobie Brothers. However, things would get better.
After the release of The Doobie Brothers, bassist Dave Shogren left the band. His replacement was Tiran Porter, who had been a member of Scratch with Patrick Simmons. This wasn’t the only new addition to The Doobie Brothers’ lineup.
For some time, The Doobie Brothers had been considering adding a second drummer to the lineup. Eventually, former Vietnam veteran Michael Hossack was chosen to augment John Hartman. And now, there were five, as work began on Toulouse Street.
Just like their eponymous debut album, Toulouse Street Tom Johnson wrote and Patrick Simmons penned the majority of the ten tracks. Tom Johnson wrote five songs, and Patrick Simmons two. The other three tracks were cover versions, including Seals and Croft’s Cotton Mouth, Arthur Reid Reynold’s Jesus Is Just Alright and Sonny Boy Willaimson’s Don’t Start Me Talkin’. These tracks were recorded in two top studios during 1972.
Warner Brothers Studios, North Hollywood and Wally Heider Studios, in San Francisco were where The Doobie Brothers new lineup recorded Toulhouse Street. Augmenting the five Doobie Brothers were a horn section, while producer Rod Templeman added percussion. Gradually, a very different album to The Doobie Brothers took shape. It was scheduled for release on July 1st 1972.
Prior to the release of Toulouse Street, critics received their advance copies of the album. When they dropped the needle on Toulouse Street, they heard a slice of classic rock. Tracks like Listen To The Music, Rockin’ Down The Highway and Jesus Is Just Alright convinced the doubters.
Those who were critical of The Doobie Brothers were won over. Even the Rolling Stone, which didn’t dish out praise lightly, gave Toulouse Street a favourable review. Unsurprisingly, the self-appointed dean of American critics, Robert Christgau, wasn’t particularly impressed. However, he very rarely was. He should’ve been.
When Toulouse Street was released on 1st July 1972, it eventually reached twenty-one on the US Billboard 200, and was certified platinum. Helping sales of Toulouse Street was the lead single Listen To The Music. It was released on 17th July 1972, and reached number eleven on the US Billboard 100. Jesus Is Just Alright was released in November 1972, but reached thirty-five in the US Billboard 100. The only disappointment was when Rockin’ Down The Highway failed to chart. By then, The Doobie Brothers were enjoying their first million selling album. This was the first of many.
The Captain And Me.
Following the success of Toulouse Street, The Doobie Brothers headed out on tour. They were about to settle into the routine where they record an album, promote the album and then tour it. So, when they weren’t touring Toulouse Street, the Warner Brothers Studios, North Hollywood was a second home for The Doobie Brothers.
Time was of the essence. The pressure was on The Doobie Brothers to record their third album quickly. Having just released a million selling album, Warner Bros. wanted to strike while the iron was hot. So when The Doobie Brothers arrived a the Warner Brothers Studios, North Hollywood they began looking to the past for inspiration.
The Doobie Brothers were just the latest band to look to the blues for inspiration. That’s how one of the six tracks that Tom Johnston wrote came about. He started improvising, and then producer Ted Templeman suggested that Tom Johnston make the lyrics about a train. Gradually, Long Train Runnin’ took shape. That was the first future Doobie Brothers’ classic Tom Johnson penned for The Captain And Me. The other was China Grove. Not to be outdone, Patrick Simmons contributed three songs or The Captain And Me.
They were Clear as the Driven Snow, South City Midnight Lady, and Evil Woman. Without You was credited to The Doobie Brothers. The other track on The Captain And Me was Busted Down Around O’Connelly Corner, a James Earl Luft composition. These eleven tracks were recorded at Warner Brothers Studios, North Hollywood with a few session players augmenting The Doobie Brothers.
This time around, there was no horn section. Instead, Jeff Baxter played pedal steel and steel guitar, while Bill Payne played keyboards,organ and piano. A first was the use of synths strings, which were arranged by Nick DeCaro. Producer Ted Templeman added percussion, on what would be The Doobie Brothers’ third album in three years, The Captain And Me. It was due for release on March 2nd 1973.
Just before the release of The Captain And Me, the reviews of the album were published. Most of the reviews were favourable, and were impressed by what was essentially classic rock with a bluesy twist. However, not everyone was won over by The Captain And Me. One of the exceptions was Rolling Stone magazine. However, most critics realised that The Doobie Brothers were maturing into one of the biggest names in music.
When The Doobie Brothers was released two years earlier, some critics had forecast that it would take The Doobie Brothers two to three albums to hone and polish their sound. This proved to be the case. Tom Johnson and Patrick Simmons were maturing into talented songwriters. Meanwhile, The Doobie Brothers were a tight, talented band who wrote music that appealed to a wide range of record buyers.
Over two million copies of The Captain And Me were eventually sold. The album reached number seven in the US Billboard 200, and was certified double-platinum. Long Train Runnin’ was the lead single from The Captain And Me. It reached number nine in the US Billboard 100, and became The Doobie Brothers’ biggest single. China Grove then reached number fifteen in the US Billboard 100. For The Doobie Brothers, The Captain And Me had been the most successful album of their career. Now it was a case of doing it all over again.
What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits.
There was no rest for The Doobie Brothers. Having released The Captain And Me, they embarked upon another tour. Then when they weren’t on tour, they were writing and recording their fourth album, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits.
Given their gruelling schedule, The Doobie Brothers hadn’t the time they would have liked to hone songs. Instead, some of the songs were written or completed in the studio. Principal songwriter Tom Johnston penned six tracks, and cowrote Road Angel with John Hartman, Michael Hossack and Tiran Porter. He also contributed Flying Cloud. Patrick Simmons wrote Black Water, You Just Can’t Stop It, Tell Me What You Want (And I’ll Give You What You Need) and Daughters Of The Sea. These twelve tracks were recorded at three studios.
Recording took place not just at Warner Bros. Studios, North Hollywood, but at Wally Helder Studios, San Francisco and Burbank Studios, in Burbank. Augmenting The Doobie Brothers were The Mempis Horns and backing vocals. Familiar faces included Jeff Baxter on pedal steel and steel guitar, while Bill Payne played keyboards, organ and piano. As usual, Ted Templeman added percussion and more importantly produced What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. It was scheduled for release on 1st February 1974.
This meant that The Doobie Brothers were about to release two albums in eleven months. When critics heard What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, reviews were mixed. Classic rock, bluegrass, country, soft rock and A.O.R. shawn through on What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. There was a but though.
Gone was the overwhelming critical acclaim that accompanied their last two albums. Although some reviews were positive, some critics felt What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits lacked the quality of Toulhouse Street and The Captain And Me. Rolling Stone magazine and Robert Christgau were among the fiercest critics. This time, though, they were alone. A few critics wondered aloud of The Doobie Brothers were releasing too many albums in too short a space of time? Only time, and album sales would tell.
When What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, was released, the AOR boom was about to begin. Especially amongst the generation who had just graduated university and had entered the workplace for the first time. With their disposable income, they bought albums by groups like The Doobie Brothers. As a result, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits reached number four in the US Billboard 200, and was certified double-platinum. Across the Atlantic, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits reached nineteen in Britain. This resulted in a silver disc for The Doobie Brothers. However, this wasn’t the end of the commercial success.
Another Park, Another Sunday reached number thirty-two in the US Billboard 100 in 1974. Eyes of Silver stalled at number fifty-two in the US Billboard 100. If The Doobie Brothers or executives at Warner Bros. were worried, they needn’t have been. Black Water, with its bluegrass influence gave The Doobie their first number one on the US Billboard 100. Despite the disappointing reviews, 1974 had been the most successful year of their four album career. All they had to do, was do it again.
Just seven months after the release of What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, The Doobie Brothers returned to the studio on 9th September 1974. When they arrived, they had a new recruit, Jeff Baxter. He had played played pedal steel and steel guitar on the last couple of Doobie Brothers’ albums. Now he was a permanent fixture. Five Doobie Brothers become six.
Right through to October the 6th 1974, it seemed that The Doobie Brothers were on a tour of some of America’s top recording studios. Warner Bros. Studios, North Hollywood, Wally Helder Studios, San Francisco and Burbank Studios, in Burbank were all used. So was The Record Plant in Sausalito, California and Creative Workshop in Nashville. These five studios were where The Doobie Brothers released the most eclectic album of their career so far, Stampede.
This became apparent when The Doobie Brothers covered Holland, Dozier, Holland’s Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While). Their other cover was the instrumental Précis. The rest of Stampede came courtesy of The Doobie Brothers’ two main songwriters. Tom Johnson only penned four tracks for Stampede, and cowrote Sweet Maxime with Patrick Simmons. He wrote four tracks, and was beginning to rival Tom Johnson as The Doobie Brothers’ principal songwriters. This was just as well.
Things were about to change for The Doobie Brothers. Onlookers who watched the recording of Stampede weren’t surprised. The Doobie Brothers took excursions via country rock, folk and sadly, funk. Guest artists included guitar virtuosos Ry Cooder, singer Maria Muldaur, pianist and marimba player Victor Feldman, percussionist Bobbye Hall and backing vocalists Sherlie Matthews and Venetta Fields. Horns and strings were over-dubbed onto what was an ambitious album from The Doobie Brothers.
Once The Doobie Brothers had finished recording Stampede with producer Ted Templeman, the release date was confirmed as April 25th 1975. However, there was a problem though.
As 1974 drew to a close, Tom Johnson’s health was suffering. Years spent on the road, carousing and enjoying the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle had taken its toll. He was absent when The Doobie Brothers played on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. The other members of The Doobie Brothers, and executives at Warner Bros. were worried. Tom Johnson played a huge role in the rise and rise of The Doobie Brothers.
By the spring of 1975, things had taken a turn for the worst. Tom Johnston had been hospitalised with a bleeding ulcer. This left a huge void. Jeff Baxter however, had a solution.
Jeff Baxter had first met Michael McDonald when the pair were playing with Steely Dan. Michael McDonald was a keyboardist and vocalist. His whose style is best described as ‘blue-eyed soul’. This was who Jeff Baxter suggested should replace Tom Johnston on the Stampede promotional tour.
Eventually, it was agreed that Michael McDonald join The Doobie Brothers, and Tom Johnston’s vocal and guitar duties be shared out. Patrick Simmons, Michael McDonald, Tiran Porter andKeith Knudsen would share vocals. Jeff Baxter and Patrick Simmons would play Tom Johnston’s guitar parts. It wasn’t ideal, but it was the only alternative to postponing the tour. That wasn’t going to happen. Warner Bros. had Stampede scheduled for release on April 25th 1975.
When critics heard Stampede, they were won over by what was the most eclectic album of The Doobie Brothers’ five album career. Critically acclaimed reviews preceded the release of Stampede.
On Stampede’s release, it reached number four on the US Billboard 200. This was The Doobie Brothers’ highest chart placing. Despite this, Stampede was only certified gold. In Britain, Stampede reached fourteen and was certified silver. Stampede hadn’t proved as commercially successful in America as The Doobie Brothers’ last two albums. Maybe the singles could save the day?
Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While), which featured Tom Johnson reinventing Holland, Dozier, Holland’s reached number eleven in the US Billboard 100. Sweet Maxine reached just number forty in the US Billboard 100. That was disappointing. So was I Cheat the Hangman stalling at number sixty in the US Billboard 100. Although Stampede had been certified gold, 1975 was proving a disappointing and worrying year for The Doobie Brothers.
Takin’ It to the Streets.
After the release of Stampede, The Doobie Brothers’ thoughts turned to their sixth album. Tom Johnston was still unwell, suffering from stomach ulcers. Things had got so bad, that shows were cancelled, and Tom Johnston’s involvement was reduced. At one point, the rest of The Doobie Brothers considered calling time on the band. They were only contracted to Warner Bros. until 1976. Michael McDonald, Tom Johnston’s temporary replacement, was merely a stopgap.
Michael McDonald was between bands when The Doobie Brothers came calling. He was living in a garage apartment. The vocalist wasn’t really the accomplished keyboardist The Doobie Brothers wanted. They wanted someone that could seamlessly switch between Hammond organ and various other keyboards. That didn’t describe Michael McDonald. However, Michael McDonald had one thing going for him, he was a singer.
The Doobie Brothers met Michael McDonald at Le Pavillon Hotel in New Orleans. They spoke with him, and then took him to a warehouse to rehearse for two days. To all intents and purposes, he was auditioning for The Doobie Brothers’ sixth album Takin’ It to the Streets.
Eventually, The Doobie Brothers decided to bring Michael McDonald onboard for the recording of Takin’ It to the Streets. This worried Warner Bros. After all, Michael McDonald was an unknown singer, who was about to become the lead singer of one of the biggest selling American bands. Now there were seven.
With The Doobie Brothers’ number swelling to seven, and their principal songwriter sidelined, it was all hands on deck. Tom Johnston only wrote Turn It Loose, which he played the guitar on. Patrick Simmons wrote 8th Avenue Shuffle and cowrote two tracks, including Wheels of Fortune, which Tom Johnston added the lead vocal to. However, Michael McDonald contributed Takin’ It To The Streets, Losin’ End, It Keeps You Runnin’ and cowrote Carry Me Away. Quickly, the unknown singer was making his presence felt, as recording began at Warner Brothers Studios, in North Hollywood.
As the recording began, producer Ted Templeman was faced with recording an album without the most talented member of The Doobie Brothers. While Tom Johnston featured on two tracks, he was a huge loss. Michael McDonald had a hard act to follow. He tried his best, adding vocals on seven songs. Tiran Porter featured on For Someone Special. Vocalist Maria Muldaur featured on Rio. Just like previous albums, The Memphis Horns add their inimitable sound. However, Takin’ It To The Streets was a very different The Doobie Brothers album.
Critics realised this straight away. Reviews of Takin’ It To The Streets varied. Some were mixed, a few favourable and some positive. However, one thing became clear, Michael McDonald was a very different type of vocalist. He interpreted the songs in a different way. His blue-eyed soul was very different to Tom Johnston, who was key to the success of The Doobie Brothers. His loss was felt on Takin’ It To The Streets, an album of classic rock, blue-eyed soul and A.O.R.
Despite the loss of Tom Johnston, when Takin’ It To The Streets was released in March 1976, it reached number eight in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in a platinum disc for The Doobie Brothers. Takin’ It To The Streets reached just forty-two in Britain, but was certified silver. However, only line of singles reached the upper reaches of the US Billboard 100.
Takin’ It To The Streets reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 100. Then Wheels of Fortune stalled at number eighty-seven. It Keeps You Runnin’ reached just number thirty-seven. However, despite this, 1976, which was the last year of The Doobie Brothers; Warner Bros.’ contract had been a successful one. However, what did the future hold for them?
The Best Of The Doobies.
Warner Bros. must have wondered this? So later in 1979, Warner Bros. decided to release a compilation of The Doobie Brothers hit singles. The Best Of The Doobie Brothers covered the period between their sophomore album Toulouse Street through their sixth album Takin’ It to the Streets. A total of eleven songs were chosen, which covered the Tom Johnston and Michael McDonald years. Among the songs chosen, were China Grove, Long Train Runnin’, Listen To The Music, South City Midnight Lady and Take Me In Your Arms. These eleven songs became The Best Of The Doobie Brothers.
Critical acclaim accompanied the release of The Best Of The Doobie Brothers. It was released on October 29th 1976 and reached number five in the US Billboard 200 and number three in Canada.This resulted in The Best Of The Doobie Brothers was certified double platinum in Canada. Meanwhile, in Britain The Best Of The Doobie Brothers was certified silver. However, in America The Best Of The Doobie Brothers sold ten million copies and was certified diamond. By then, The Doobie Brothers had resigned to Warner Bros.
Livin’ On The Fault Line.
Having resigned to Warner Bros., The Doobie Brothers began working on their seventh album, Livin’ On The Fault Line. Tom Johnston was newly restored to The Doobie Brothers’ lineup…for the time being.
Tom Johnston had written five songs for Livin’ On The Fault Line. He was restored to his rightful role as The Doobie Brothers’ principal songwriter. The Doobie Brothers had recorded these five tracks, which should’ve become half of their seventh album, Livin’ On The Fault Line. However, all wasn’t well.
During the Livin’ On The Fault Line sessions, Tom Johnston left The Doobie Brothers. His songs were removed from the album. However, his guitar lines and some vocals can be heard. Without Tom Johnston’s songs, The Doobie Brothers were almost starting again.
Eventually, when Livin’ On The Fault Line was ready for release, one name loomed large, Michael McDonald. He wrote two songs and cowrote another two. Patrick Simmons only cowrote three songs, and cowrote Echoes of Love which Willie Mitchell and Earl Randle cowrote for Al Green. The song was never quite finished though, until Patrick Simmons intervened. Along with Holland, Dozier, Holland’s Little Darling (I Need You) and Tiran Porter’s Need A Lady, these ten tracks became Livin’ On The Fault Line.
Again, it was recorded in various studios, including Sunset Sound Recorders and Western Recorders in Hollywood. Other sessions took place in Warner Bros. Recording Studios, North Hollywood. Overseeing the sessions, was producer Ted Templeman. He ensured that Livin’ On The Fault Line was ready for release on August 19th 1977.
Livin’ On The Fault Line wasn’t as well received as many Doobie Brothers’ albums. Reviews were mixed, varying between mixed to favourable and positive. Some critics however, weren’t won over by Livin’ On The Fault Line’s jazzy hue. What would record buyers think?
When Livin’ On The Fault Line was released, it reached number ten on the US Billboard 200. This was enough for the album to be certified gold. That was as good as it got.
The lead single, Little Darlin’ I Need You reached just forty-eight in the US Billboard 100. Then Echoes of Love stalled at a lowly sixty-six in the US Billboard 100. Some critics felt Tom Johnson, who cofounded The Doobie Brothers, was a big loss.
Minute By Minute.
This forecast by some critics would prove ironic. On December 1st 1978, The Doobie Brothers would release the most successful album of their career, Minute By Minute.
For the first album of the post Tom Johnson era, Michael McDonald played a big part in writing Minute By Minute. He penned Here To Love You, and penned What A Fool Believes with Kenny Loggins. He wasn’t finished. Michael McDonald and Lester Abrams cowrote Minute By Minute. The pair also cowrote Open Your Eyes with Patrick Henderson. How Do the Fools Survive? was a Michael McDonald composition with Carole Bayer Sager. Then Michael McDonlad cowrote Dependin’ On You with Patrick Simmons. However, he wasn’t being sidelined.
Patrick Simmons wrote Steamer Lane and You Never Change. He also cowrote Sweet Feelin’ with producer Ted Templeman. These songs became part of Minute By Minute, which was recorded at Warner Bros. Recording Studios, North Hollywood.
For the recording of Minute By Minute, The Doobie Brothers were joined by season players and backing vocalists. This includes backing vocalist Nicolette Larson. Michael Jackson also claimed to have added backing vocals on What a Fool Believes, Here to Love You and Minute by Minute. However, he wasn’t credited on the album when it was released on December 1st 1978.
Before the release of Minute By Minute, the reviews were mixed. Critics were divided by the mixture of A.O.R., blue-eyed soul and soft rock. However, record buyers loved Minute By Minute.
When Minute By Minute was released, it reached number one on the US Billboard 200 charts. Three million copies of Minute By Minute were sold, and the album was certified platinum three times over. Across the border, Minute By Minute was certified platinum in Canada. This was just the start of the success.
The lead single from Minute By Minute, What A Fool Believes reached number one on the US Billboard 100 charts in 1980. Minute By Minute reached number fourteen on the US Billboard 100 charts. Then Depending On You reached number twenty-five on the US Billboard 100 charts. That hardly mattered. One of the most prestigious awards in music was tantalisingly close…The Grammy Awards.
When the Grammy Awards’ nominations were released, The Doobie Brothers and Minute by Minute were were nominated four times. Michael McDonald and Kenning Loggins had penned What A Fool Believes. This won them a Grammy Award for the Record of the Year. Minute By Minute then won a Grammy Award for Album Of The Year. Both Minute By Minute and What A Fool Believes were nominated for the Song of the Year. Ultimately, What A Fool Believes won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year. That took The Doobie Brothers toll of Grammy Awards to three. 1980 had been the most successful year of The Doobie Brothers’ ten year career. However, there was a twist in the tale.
One Step Closer,
After the success of Minute By Minute, The Doobie Brothers literally fell apart. The near dissolution of The Doobie Brothers was spun by P.R. men as the constant years of touring and recording catching up on the band. However, another explanation was the addition of Michael McDonald.
Since Michael McDonald had been rescued from the penury of his garage flat, the band had changed, and not necessary for the better. One of founder members, Tim Johnston had left The Doobie Brothers. Next to leave was guitarist Jeff Baxter. He clashed with Michael McDonald, who didn’t approve of his avant garde guitar parts. This Michael McDonald felt didn’t suit The Doobie Brothers. It seemed the one time session player was now dictating The Doobie Brothers’ musical direction. Soon, other members of The Doobie Brothers decided to leave.
Drummer John Hartman, another founding member of The Doobie Brothers left the band. So did longtime guitarist Jeff Baxter and percussionist Bobby LaKind. However, Michael McDonald remained.
Patrick Simmons watched as another of the second of the founding members of The Doobie Brothers left. It seemed ten years playing together counted for little. This meant Patrick Simmons and Tiran Porter were the last original member of The Doobie Brothers left. It was a sad day.
Despite this, The Doobie Brothers continued. They were scheduled to embark on a lucrative tour. So the remaining members of The Doobie Brothers headed out on tour.
This included Patrick Simmons, Tiran Porter and Michael McDonald. They were joined by Keith Knudsen. Augmenting them quwere drummer Chet McCracken, guitarist and violinist John Mc Fee and one-time Moby Grape saxophonist and flautist Cornelius Bumpus. They headed out on the lucrative tour, then in 1980, began recording One Step Closer.
When The Doobie Brothers regrouped, to record One Step Closer, producer Ted Templeman was greeted by a very different group to the one that recorded a triple-platinum album that won a trio of Grammy Awards. The Doobie Brothers were a pale shadow of its former self. It wasn’t going to be easy to record an album as successful as Minute By Minute.
For One Step Closer, Michael McDonald wrote Keep This Train A-Rollin’ and cowrote another four tracks. This included “No Stoppin’ Us Now, which Chris Thompson and Patrick Simmons cowrote. Patrick Simmons also wrote Just in Time. Other members of The Doobie Brothers contributed tracks. Cornelius Bumpus penned Thank You Love. Chester McCracken cowrote with John McFee. He cowrote One Step Closer with Keith Knudson and Carlene Carter. These ten tracks would become The Doobie Brothers ninth studio album, One Step Closer.
Again, various studios were used from L.A. to New York and Detroit. Sessions took place at Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood. Nearby, Warner Brothers Studio in North Hollywood was a favourite place for The Doobie Brothers. Other sessions were recorded at United Sound Recorders in Detroit, and A & R Recorders in New York. At the four studios, ten tracks took shape. They were recorded by The Doobie Brothers, a horn section and backing vocalists, including Nicolette Larson. Once the ironically titled One Step Closer was finished, so was the first chapter in The Doobie Brothers’ career.
Before that, One Step Closer was reviewed by critics. They weren’t impressed with what was the worst album of The Doobie Brothers’ nine album career. Reviews were far from positive. One Step Closer didn’t sound a cohesive album. That wasn’t surprising as The Doobie Brothers were now augmented by session musicians. Good as they were, they weren’t as invested in the project. For them, it was another project. However, despite the disappointing reviews, One Step Closer proved a popular album.
On its release on September 17th 1980, One Step Closer surprisingly reached number three on the US Billboard 200, and number thirty-one on the US R&B charts. This resulted in another platinum album for The Doobie Brothers. However, maybe a lot of record buyers bought One Step Closer looking for another album like Minute By Minute. They would be disappointed. There were no singles like What A Fool Believes.
The closest thing was Real Love, which reached number five in the US Billboard 100. One Step Closer then reached twenty-four in the US Billboard 100. Keep This Train A-Rollin’ proved an ironic title, when it reached a lowly sixty-two in the US Billboard 100. The end was nigh for The Doobie Brothers.
After the release of One Step Closer, The Doobie Brothers continued to tour during the rest of 1980 and 1981. However, gradually, the band fell apart.
Towards the end of 1981, Patrick Simmons left the band. This meant that there were no original members of The Doobie Brothers left in the lineup. Calling the band The Doobie Brothers would’ve been farcical. By then, Michael McDonald had one eye on a solo career. So the remaining ‘members’ of The Doobie Brothers called tine on the once proud band. In the end it was a mercy killing. Maybe it should’ve happened much sooner?
Back in 1975, when Tom Johnston was having medical problems, maybe that was the time to call time on The Doobie Brothers? However, the band was at the peak of their powers, and were signed to Warner Bros. for one more year. They were caught between a rock and hard place. If they had called time on The Doobie Brothers in 1975, the band’s identity would’ve remained intact. Instead, The Doobie Brothers with Michael McDonald became a very different type of band, and one that even today, divides the opinion of critics. They were penning The Doobie Brothers‘ epitaphs. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. were preparing to release the Best Of The Doobie Brothers Volume II.
Best Of The Doobie Brothers Volume II.
For the Best Of The Doobie Brothers Volume II, ten tracks were chosen. They covered the period between Livin’ On The Fault Line and One Step Closer were chosen. Among the singles chosen, were Little Darling I Need You, You Belong To Me, What A Fool Believes, Here to Love You and Minute By Minute. These ten tracks became the Best Of The Doobie Brothers Volume II, and were released in November 1981.
The second compilation of The Doobie Brothers didn’t sell ten million coupes. However, when the Best Of The Doobie Brothers Volume II was released in November 1981, it reached thirty-nine in the US R&B charts. This was enough for the Best Of The Doobie Brothers Volume II to be certified. Having released a second successful Best Of album, there was still something missing from The Doobie Brothers’ back-catalogue, their first live album Farewell Tour.
When the seventeen track Farewell Tour was released in June 1983, it was the case for the prosecution. Farewell Tour showed what The Doobie Brothers had become. They were a blue-eyed soul band, which was a long way from the guitar driven boogie of the Tom Johnston years. Fittingly, Tom Johnston has the final say on Farewell Tour.
He closes Farewell Tour with Long Train Runnin’ and China Grove. Tom Johnston also features on Slippery St. Paul, from The Doobie Brothers. It’s a tantalising taste of The Doobie Brothers before their rough edges were smoothed away. It was a reminder of what The Doobie Brothers had once been.
On the release of Farewell Tour, it reached a lowly seventy-nine on the US Billboard 200. The single You Belong To Me reached just seventy-nine on the US Billboard 100. It looked like The Doobie Brothers’ time was up.
They had had a good run. Between 1971s The Doobie Brothers and 1983s Farewell Tour, the group had sold 21.5 million albums in America alone. This was the most successful period of The Doobie Brothers’ career.
Since then, The Doobie Brothers have reformed and hit the comeback trail several times, releasing five albums between 1989 and 2014. However, commercial success only visited them once more. That was their tenth studio album Cycles, reached seventeen in the US Billboard 200, and was certified gold. This was as good as it got for The Doobie Brothers.
1991s Brotherhood failed to match the commercial success of Cycles, reaching a lowly eighty-two on US Billboard 200. Sibling Rivalry released in 2000, failed to chart. Ten years later, The Doobie Brothers released World Gone Crazy, which reached thirty-nine in the US Billboard 200. Then Southbound, which was released in 2014, saw The Doobie Brothers reach eighteen in the US Billboard 200. However, by then, no longer did a group need to sell 500,000 copies to reach the top twenty. In a way, it was a Pyrrhic victory.
By 2014, the best and most successful years of The Doobie Brothers were long behind them. By then, the best and and most successful years of The Doobie Brothers career was a generation ago, when they were signed to Warner Bros. The twelve years The Doobie Brothers spent at Warner Bros. was the most successful of their career. That period of The Doobie Brothers’ career will mean different things to different people. Some remember and prefer the guitar driven boogie of the Tom Johnston years; while other enjoyed the blue-eyed soul of the Michael McDonald years. These two different sides of of The Doobie Brothers made them one of the biggest selling bands between 1971-1983.
During that period, The Doobie Brothers sold 21.5 million albums in America alone, They received three gold discs, three platinum discs; had two albums certified double platinum; one certified triple-platinum and one certified diamond. Glittering describes The Doobie Brothers’ career, especially the Warner. Bros’ years.
The Doobie Borther’ Warner Bros.Years’ 1970-1983.
Zakary Thaks-Kings Of Texas’ Garage Rock.
During the sixties, garage bands sprung up all over Texas, and some recorded a handful of singles, before disappearing. Others never got that far. Many recorded just the one single, and played a handful of gigs, before calling it a day. Nowadays, they’re long forgotten. They however, played just a walk-on part in the history of Texan garage rock. However, fifty years later, one name looms large in the history of Texan garage rock, Zakary Thaks. They’re now regarded as the Kings of Texan garage rock. Their story began in the early sixties, in Corpus Christi, Texas.
That’s where, one summer, a group of school friends decided to form a band. This wasn’t unusual. Groups sprung up on a regular basis in the port of Corpus Christi. Nobody took any notice when a new band was formed. After all, groups came and went. The Riptides were just the latest rock ’n’ roll group to be formed in Corpus Christi.
It was at the home of guitarist Pete Stinson, that The Riptides were formed. The initial lineup featured vocalist Chris Gerniottis, drummer Rex Gregory, bassist Wayne Harrison and guitarists Pete Stinson, Shelby Jordan and Glenn Jauer. This was the lineup of The Riptides that played at local parties.
Not long after The Riptides formed, they changed their name. There was, a well known surf rock band with the same name. So, The Riptides became The Marauders, who were soon, establishing a reputation as one of Corpus Christi’s best up-and-coming band.
When The Marauders played live, their music was influenced by the recent British Invasion. Initially, it was just The Beatles that influenced The Marauders. Soon, they discovered The Kinks and The Yarbirds. Their driving rock sound appealed to The Marauders. It played a huge part in shaping The Marauders’ sound. So did blues, rock and surf rock. That’s not surprising. Corpus Christi was a popular surf resort, and The Marauders were on their way to becoming one of its most popular bands. Especially with a new guitarist, John Lopez, onboard.
John Lopez had no formal guitar lessons. A self-taught guitarist, his playing style is remembered as fiery. It was a case of John taming the tiger that was his guitar. With the flamboyant guitarist onboard, The Marauders dispensed with instrumentals and instead, relied more upon Chris Gerniottis’ vocals.
This proved a minor masterstroke. With each performance Chris’ confidence grew. He was inspired by the the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Eric Burdon of The Animals. However, it was Keith Yelf of The Yarbirds that Chris modelled himself on. Things it seemed, were looking up for The Marauders. Then Rex Gregory had to leave the band.
Rex hadn’t been doing well at school. So, his father took him out of school, and sent him to Houston. This left The Marauders without a drummer. His replacement was David Fore. He was a better fit. While Rex was essentially a jazz drummer, David was more suited to garage rock. David was what The Marauders had been looking for. Maybe he was the final piece in the jigsaw?
That looked like being the case. Then a few months later, Rex returned. This presented The Marauders with a dilemma. David was a better drummer. They couldn’t get rid of him. So, they offered Rex the chance to become The Marauders’ bassist. Rex agreed. However, nobody thought to tell Wayne Harrison. The first he knew, was when he arrived at their concert at The Carousel. Wayne wasn’t pleased, and decided to leave The Marauders, who were about to change their name again.
Having been first The Riptides and then The Marauders, at last, the group were going to settle on a name. This came about when Chris Gerniottis was reading a teen magazine. In the letters page, he came across the name Zakary Thaks. It sounded much better than The Marauders. There was an air mystery and intrigue to Zakary Thaks. This change of name coincided with a change in fortune for Zakary Thaks.
With their new name, things started to look up for Zakary Thaks. The Carousel, where Rex made his debut on bass, became their new headquarters. Zakary Thaks became ostensibly the house band, playing at dances. Quickly, their popularity grew, with Zakary Thaks appearing on a local television show, Teen Time. It was at Teen Time that Zakary Thaks discovered what was definitely, the final piece of the musical jigsaw.
That was Stan Moore. He was the drummer for a rival group The Last Fyve, when Zakary Thaks first heard him play. Straight away, they realised he was what Zakary Thaks had been looking for. Although David Fore was a good drummer, Stan Moore was better. Chris and the rest of Zakary Thaks knew the importance of a good drummer. The rhythm section was central to the future success of Zakary Thaks. Stan Moore could improve Zakary Thaks’ rhythm section. So, an approach was made to Stan Moore, and he became Zakary Thaks’ new drummer. At last, the final piece in the jigsaw was in place. Now, Zakary Thaks were set to become Kings of Texan garage rock.
With their new drummer in place, Zakary Thaks style continued to evolve. Folk-rock and blue-eyed soul influenced Zakary Thaks. Among the groups influencing Zakary Thaks, were The Byrds and The Young Rascals. With their constantly evolving set list, Zakary Thaks took part in a battle of bands at The Carousel.
Given The Carousel was Zakary Thaks unofficial headquarters, they didn’t want to loose face on their home turf. They didn’t. Instead, Zakary Thaks were approached by Carl Becker, who worked with a small airline. Carl and his brother-in-law Jack Salyers had setup J-Beck Records and wanted tor to manage Zakary Thaks. Part of the deal included Zakary Thaks making their debut recording. An added bonus was that Carl and Jack promoted concerts, and would be able to get Zakary Thaks regular gigs. After consulting their parents, Zakary Thaks agreed, and the next step in the rise of Zakary Thaks began.
Realising that Zakary Thaks were bristling with energy and enthusiasm, Carl and Jack soon got the band regular bookings. Zakary Thaks were well received by the audience. They were obviously a talented band. So, soon, Carl and Jack suggested Zakary Thaks write their debut single.
After some time, Zakary Thaks returned with what would become their debut single, Bad Girl. Fittingly, given Zakary Thaks’ love of the British music, the B-Side was a cover of The Kinks’ I Need You. Bad Girl marked the beginning of Zakary Thaks’ recording career began in mid-1966.
Bad Girl was released on J-Beck Records in mid-1966. Bad Girl, an explosion of teenage angst, that’s influenced by the British Invasion, struck a nerve. It became a local hit in Texas. It hit the top of the charts just at the right time.
By then, Zakary Thaks had just supported The Seeds. The Seeds were in disarray, and were blown away by Zakary Thaks. Despite this, The Seeds’ lead singer, Mike Taylor, would later write Zakary Thaks’ sophomore single Please Me. Before that, Zakary Thaks played at a battle of the bands at the Aqua Festival, in Austin, Texas. By then, Zakary Thaks’ star in the ascendancy. Now was the time to record the followup to Bad Girl.
Carl Becker took Zakary Thaks to Gold Star studios, Houston. That’s where recording of Zakary Thaks’ sophomore single Please took place. With its folk rock sound, Please was a stylistic departure for Zakary Thaks. This change of style didn’t please the members of Zakary Thaks. Mike Taylor, who was now working alongside Carl, convinced Chris this was the way to go. He acquiesced and Please, with Won’t Come Back on the B-Side became Zakary Thaks’ sophomore single.
Please didn’t quite replicate the success of Bad Girl. Inwardly, Zakary Thaks thought they’d released the wrong song. At the same session, they had recorded two rocky tracks, She’s Got You and It’s The End. Both were penned by members of Zakary Thaks. Again, there’s a strong British Invasion influence, as Chris oozing attitude, and accompanied by a moody, rocky backdrop, struts his way though the track. Despite these blistering performances, both tracks were rejected by Carl Becker, who was currently negotiating with Mercury Records.
After the success of Bad Girl locally, Chris decided to lease the single to a major label. Eventually, after some contractual problems, he struck a deal with Mercury. Bad Girl was released by Mercury in October 1966. Due to the nationwide release of Bad Girl, Carl put a followup single on hold. By then, Zakary Thaks had met one of their musical heroes.
The Yarbirds were on what became their last American tour, before Jeff Beck quit the group. On 30th October 1966, The Yarbirds played at Corpus Christi, at the Memorial Coliseum. Somehow, Carl had convinced the promoter to let Zakary Thaks open the bill. The next day, at the airport Zakary Thaks, who were en route to Houston, to a recording session, met Jeck Beck. Having met their hero, Zakary Thaks boarded a flight to Houston.
At Gold Star studios, Houston, Zakary Thaks recorded Passage To India, which was very different to their previous recordings. Its modal, Eastern influenced riffs were almost a homage to The Seeds. Other tracks recorded at the Gold Star sessions, included Won’t Come Back and Face To Face. Once the recording sessions were over, Zakary Thaks returned home.
With three new tracks to show for their trip to Houston, Zakary Thaks hoped one would be their third single. That wasn’t to be. Carl Becker rejected the songs. However, after Face To Face was reworked in late December 1966, and then January 1967. With Carl’s help, Zakary Thaks nailed Face To Face. It would give Zakary Thaks’ another hit single.
Released in February 1967, Zakary Thaks’ long awaited third single, Face To Face, which had Weekday Blues on the flip side, caught the attention of DJs. Across the Gulf Coast, Face To Face received heavy airplay. However, during this period, members of Zakary Thaks’ rhythm section were working overtime.
Following his departure from The Seeds, Mike Taylor was touring as Michael. There was a problem. He was without a band. So, when he needed a rhythm section, who did he call? Zakary Thaks. They accompanied him live, and played on I’d Only Laugh, People Sec IV and Gotta Make My Heart Turn Away. Of this trio of tracks, the Dylan tonged People Sec IV, was released as a single. Meanwhile, Face To Face, Zakary Thaks’ was riding high in the charts.
With another hit single in Face To Face, featuring on television, constantly playing live and working with Mike Taylor, things were looking good for Zakary Thaks during the first half of 1967. To onlookers, this was pretty good going, considering Zakary Thaks were still in their final year at high school. However, Zakary Thaks’ next single marked a change in the group’s fortunes.
By June 1967, Zakary Thaks released their next single. This wasn’t a new song. Won’t Come Back had been recorded at Gold Star Studios, in December 1966. It was paired with a rerecorded version of their debut hit single, Please. However, it failed to match the commercial success of Face To Face. This was a huge disappointment. Still, Zakary Thaks were busy playing live, appeared on television and even had a documentary made about them. Then in the spring 1967, Carl Becker announced he was leaving J-Beck Records.
For Zakary Thaks this was a worrying time. Lofton Kline, formerly of The Poco-Seco Singers took over A&R duties for Zakary Thaks. This resulted in a change of sound. Zakary Thaks’ releases took on a more polished sound. Instruments were layered, and the production style was much more noticeable. This is apparent on Zakary Thaks’ final single for J-Beck Records.
Recording of the Mike Taylor penned, Can You Hear Your Daddy’s Footsteps began in April 1967. Then when Lofton took charge of A&R, he decided that overdubbing should take place. It was well worth the extra effort. The vocal arrangement, where harmonies interact with the lead vocal, is much more complex. Then there’s the blistering guitars, and driving rhythm section. On the B-Side was the reflective, baroque influenced Mirror Of Yesterday. With its heavily orchestrated arrangement, this marked a change in style from Zakary Thaks. This wasn’t the only change about to happen. Little did one of their number realise, that Can You Hear Your Daddy’s Footsteps was Zakary Thaks’ swansong.
Eventually, Can You Hear Your Daddy’s footsteps was released in November 1967. It failed to replicate the commercial succes of earlier singles. Zakary Thaks’ recording career seemed to have stalled. Maybe, the loss of Chris Becker had affected Zakary Thaks more than they realised? Lofton, although well intentioned, maybe, seemed to be taking Zakary Thaks in the wrong direction? Then there was a problem with Chris Gerniottis.
For some time, there had been tension within Zakary Thaks. Eventually, it came to a head in January 1967. John Lopez, Stan Moore and Pete Stinson decided the time had come to fire Chris Gerniottis. Chris seemingly a believer in the maxim get your retaliation in first, joined Zakary Thaks’ fiercest rivals Liberty Bell. Zakary Thaks. Replacing Chris in Zakary Thaks was Maxine Sands. However, her time as Zakary Thaks lead singer was short-lived. Pete Stinson joined the U.S. Army and Zakary Thaks split-up. Can You Hear Your Daddy’s Footsteps proved to be Zachary Thaks’ final single for J-Beck Records.
There was subsequent talk of the remaining members of Zakary Thaks forming a new band. However, John Lopez joined The Farm. He played with The Farm until Zakary Thaks reformed in May 1968 as a trio. This being the age of the power trio, drummer Stan Moore, bassist Rex Gregory and guitarist John Lopez became the latest incarnation of Zakary Thaks.
Not long after reforming, Zakary Thaks released a new single, Green Crystal Ties, which featured My Door on the B-Side. Both sides were psychedelic rockers, and despite their indisputable quality, failed commercially. For the newly reformed Zakary Thaks, this was a disappointment. Maybe their luck would change when they became a quartet?
Liberty Bell disbanded in January 1969. This left Chris Gerniottis without a group. Differences were put to one side, and Chris Gerniottis rejoined Zakary Thaks. With three becoming four, Zakary Thaks signed to Carl Becker’s new label Cee Bee Records.
In March 1969, Zakary Thaks recorded what would prove to be the final single of their career. Originally, Everybody Wants To Be Somebody was destined to be the single. However, the B-Side Outprint had more of the original Zakary Thaks’ sound. Sadly, that proved to be wishful thinking. Zakary Thaks sunk without trace. The group that had been, Kings of Texan garage rock split up in June 1969. The dream may have been over for Zakary Thaks, but they had written their way into garage rock history.
Thirty-six years after Zakary Thaks split-up, they’re still remembered as Kings of Texan garage rock. That’s despite releasing six singles. Three of these singles, Bad Girl, Face To Face and Won’t You Come Back are remembered as Texan garage rock classics. They’re a tantalising reminder of Zakary Thaks, the Kings of Texan garage rock,
Zakary Thaks-Kings Of Texas’ Garage Rock.
Budgie-A Case Of What Might Have Been.
The roots of hard rocking Welsh trio Budgie, can be traced to Cardiff, in 1967. That was where the band were formed. Originally, Budgie were known as Hills Contemporary Grass. However, after playing several gigs in 1968, Burke Shelley, Tony Bourge and Ray Phillips decided to changed the band’s name to Six Ton Budgie. Before long, this was shortened to Budgie. Little did anyone know that one of the most influential British heavy rock bands had just been christened.
The newly christened Budgie would go on to influence a new generation rock bands. They became known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Bands like Judas Priest, Saxon, Iron Maiden, Raven and Def Leppard were among the bands that were inspired by Budgie’s music. This includes the five albums Budgie recorded between 1970 and 1975. These albums had the potential to turn Budgie into one of the biggest British rock bands of the early seventies. They should’ve launched band’s career as the capture Budgie at their hard rocking best. Budgie wouldn’t have looked out of place alongside Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Their story began in 1968.
Having changed their name to Budgie in 1968, the band began honing their sound by playing live. This was the tried and tested way that bands had honed their sound. There were no short cuts. Instead, it was just hard work and persistence.
Night after night, Budgie like many bands before them, pubs and clubs. Early on, Budgie played locally. Before long, Budgie began to play further afield. Gradually, Budgie began to attract a following. Their hard work and persistence was beginning to pay off. After nearly two years of playing live, decided to Budgie record their first demo.
Bassist and vocalist Burke Shelley, guitarist Tony Bourge and drummer Ray Phillips entered the studio and recorded what became their first demo in 1971. It was used to try and attract interest from record companies.
The first demo didn’t result in record companies rushing to Cardiff to sign Budgie. They were prepared to be patient, and play the long game. Eventually, Budgie’s patience paid off, and they were signed by MCA.
Once they had signed to MCA, the label began looking for the right producer for Budgie. Meanwhile, they were putting the finishing touches to the album they were writing. Eventually, Budgie were paired with Black Sabbath’s producer Roger Bain.
He had an enviable track record. Roger Bain had produced Black Sabbath’s first two albums. When Black Sabbath was released in February 1970, it was certified gold in the UK and platinum in America. Seven months later, Black Sabbath released Paranoid in September 1970. It was certified gold in the UK and four times platinum in America. Black Sabbath’s first two albums had sold five million copies in America along, and the man that produced the albums was about to work with Budgie.
For a band about to record their debut album, this was beyond their wildest dreams. Secretly, the three members of Budgie must have been dreaming that Roger Bain could do the same for Budgie.
They had finished writing the eight tracks that became debut album. Each of the tracks were credited to Burke Shelley, Tony Bourge and Ray Phillips. To record their debut album, Budgie were about to head to one of the prestigious studios, Rockfield Studios, in Monmouth, in Wales.
At Rockfield Studios, Budgie began recording the eight tracks with Roger Bain. Budgie decided to augment their core sound. Most things stayed the same though. Ray Phillips played drums and percussion and Tony Bourge guitar. Bassist and vocalist Burke Shelley played a mellotron on what became Budgie. It was completed during the first half of 1971.
The release of Budgie was scheduled for June 1971. Before that, the critics had their say. Mostly, the reviews of Budgie were positive. Alas, some critics weren’t convinced by Budgie. They were in a minority. Most were won over by heavy, hard rocking, blues rock sound and lightning fast, blistering guitar solos. Especially on Homicidal Suicidal and Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman, which were two of the highlights of Budgie, and why most of the reviews forecast that Budgie would be a success.
Upon the release of Budgie in 1971, the album failed to chart in the UK. Neither did the non-album single Crash Course In Brain Surgery. This was a huge disappointment for Budgie, Roger Bain and MCA. Later, like Metallica covered Crash Course In Brain Surgery. Thrush Hermit and Soundgarden would all cover songs from Budgie. However, back in 1971, it was back to the drawing board for Budgie.
After the commercial failure of their eponymous debut album, Budgie returned to the live circuit. They were starting to build a following. Eventually, though, Budgie began work on their sophomore album.
Just like their debut album, the three members of Budgie wrote a total of nine tracks. They would later become Squawk. Just like Budgie, recording took place at Rockfield Studios with producer Roger Bain.
Work began at Rockfield Studios, Budgie during the first half of 1972. Drummer and percussionist Ray Phillips was joined in the rhythm section by bassist and vocalist Burke Shelley. He also played mellotron piano. Completing Budgie’s lineup, was guitarist Tony Bourge guitar. The album was recorded live. Budgie it seemed, were trying to capture the essence of one of their live performances. When the album was completed it became Squawk.
For Squawk’s album cover, MCA commissioned Roger Dean. By 1972, he was already regarded as one of the top album designers. He produced a truly memorable and thought provoking album cover. The first people to see it were the critics.
Just like Budgie, the majority of the reviews of Squawk were positive. There were still a few critics who were yet to be convinced. Mostly, Budgie’s hard rocking sound found favour with critics. Tracks like Rocking Man, The Beatles’ inspired Rolling Home Again, folk-tinged Make Me Happy and anthemic Drugstore Woman were among the highlights of Squawk. It was released in September 1972.
When Squawk was released, the album failed to much of an impression on the charts. This was another disappointment for Budgie. They returned to the live circuit and considered their options.
Never Turn Your Back On A Friend.
By the time Budgie thoughts turned to their third album, they had decided to make some changes. They quickly became apparent as work began on what would become Never Turn Your Back On A Friend.
For Never Turn Your Back On A Friend, Budgie penned six tracks. The other track was a cover version. This was a first. Usually, Budgie wrote their own material. However, Big Joe Williams’ Baby, Please Don’t Go was a blues classic. This was fitting for a group who had started life as a blues rock band.
Although Budgie were originally a blues rock band, their music was beginning to change on Never Turn Your Back On A Friend. Progressive rock was King in 1973, and Budgie moved towards progressive rock on Never Turn Your Back On A Friend. Still, though, Budgie were primarily a hard rocking band. They combined the hard rock and progressive rock on Never Turn Your Back On A Friend.
When recording begn at Rockfield Studios, there was no sign of Roger Bain. Budgie had decided to produce Never Turn Your Back On A Friend themselves. They had learnt from Roger Bain, and were ready to make their production debut on Never Turn Your Back On A Friend. It had a much leaner sound.
There was neither a piano nor mellotron on . Instead, it was just drummer Ray Phillips, bassist and vocalist Burke Shelley and guitarist Tony Bourge. They worked their way through seven tracks. where Budgie switched between blues rock, hard rock, progressive rock and proto-speed metal. These tracks eventually became Never Turn Your Back On A Friend.
Once Never Turn Your Back On A Friend was complete, MCA sent copies of the album to critics. They hailed the album Budgie’s finest yet. One of the highlights was Breadfan, which Metallica later covered. Parents a ten minute epic, is regarded as one the track that launched the speed metal genre. However, Never Turn Your Back On A Friend was the album that had most influence on the new wave of British heavy metal. It would inspire a new generation of bands. Despite doing so, Never Turn Your Back On A Friend wasn’t a huge commercial success.
Far from it. When Never Turn Your Back On A Friend was released in June 1973, the album failed to chart. That was Budgie’s third album that had failed to trouble the charts. For one member of Budgie, that was enough for him to call time on career with the band.
In late 1973, Ray Phillips left Budgie. He was replaced by Pete Boot. His timing was impeccable. Budgie’s fortunes were about to improve.
In For The Kill.
After the departure of Ray Phillips, a new chapter began in Budgie’s career. For the first few weeks, Burke Shelley and Tony Bourge gave the new recruit a crash course in Budgie’s back-catalogue. The new drummer, Pete Boot, had three albums to learn. Budgie were also in the process of working on their fourth album, In For The Kill.
Unlike Ray Phillips, Pete Boot took no part in writing In For The Kill. Instead, Burke Shelley and Tony Bourge wrote six of the seven songs on In For The Kill. The other track was Crash Course In Brain Surgery, which had been released as a single in 1971. It had been penned by the original lineup of Budgie, Ray Phillips, Burke Shelley and Tony Bourge. However, rather than use the original track, Budgie decided to remix the track.
There was a reason for this. This would allow the guitars to play a more prominent role in the track. It was a track used effectively and successfully by Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi. If had been good enough for Black Sabbath, then it was good enough for Budgie. They began work on remixing Crash Course In Brain Surgery, and recording In For The Kill.
This took place at the familiar surroundings of Rockfield Studios in Monmouth. It was where Budgie’s three previous albums had been recorded. Three was about to become four, when the new lineup pressed play. The new lineup of drummer Pete Book, bassist and vocalist Burke Shelley and guitarist Tony Bourge worked their way though the seven songs. Just like Never Turn Your Back On A Friend, In For The Kill was produced by Budgie. Once the sessions at Rockfield Studios were complete, some further recording took place at Lee Sound, in Birmingham. Only then, was In For The Kill complete.
With In For The Kill complete, MCA scheduled the release of the album for May 1974. They wanted to build in the increasing popularity of Budgie. Their star was in the ascendancy. They had continued to increase their fan-base over the last few years. It had taken time, patience and persistence. Maybe In For The Kill would be a game-changer? That would depend on what the critics said.
Critics on hearing In For The Kill, hailed the album Budgie’s finest hour. However, they had said the same thing about Never Turn Your Back On A Friend. There were plenty of reasons to justify the critics conclusions.
This included In For The Kill, which featured a blistering guitar solo from Tony Bourge. Hot on its heels came the remixed version of Crash Course In Brain Surgery. With the power chords playing a prominent role in the track, it was regarded as one of the album’s highlights. So was the thoughtful Wondering What Everyone Knows, which seemed to have been inspired by The Beatles. Hammer and Tongs found Budgie at their hard rocking best, while Burke Shelley’s vocal adding an element of drama. Closing In For The Kill was the nine minute epic Living On Your Own. In For The Kill was indeed Budgie’s finest hour.
When it was released in May 1974, record buyers agreed. In For The Kill reached twenty-nine in the UK charts. After four albums, and seven years hard work and persistence, Budgie had made a breakthrough.
The sad thing was that the original drummer had Ray Phillips left Budgie just before the band made their breakthrough. His replacement Pete Boot was enjoying the fruits of his labours. He hadn’t spent six years crisscrossing Britain playing in pubs in clubs. However, Ray Phillips would later form his own band Ray Phillips Woman in the mid-seventies. By then, Budgie had lost their second drummer.
In late 1974, Budgie’s ‘new’ drummer Pete Boot left the band. This left Budgie in the lurch. Luckily, Steve Williams filled the void when Budge toured In For The Kill. Steve Williams later became a permanent member, and played on Budgie’s fifth album, Bandolier.
Despite the success of In For The Kill, it was over a year before Budgie returned with the followup album, Bandolier. They had spent much of 1974 and part of 1975 touring. Budgie’s popularity was continuing to grow and this meant spending more time on the road. However, the time came to return to the recording studio.
By then, Burke Shelley and Tony Bourge had written five of the six songs on Bandolier. They were joined by a cover of Andy Fairweather Low’s Ain’t No Mountain. These six tracks were recorded at what had become Budgie’s studio of choice, Rockfield Studios.
Drummer Steve Williams, bassist and vocalist Burke Shelley and guitarist Tony Bourge began work on Bandolier at Rockfield Studios. Much of the album was recorded there. However, some recording took place at Mayfair Sound, in London. Eventually, Budgie had recorded six songs. They would become their fifth album, Bandolier.
With Bandolier completed, it was delivered to MCA. They scheduled the release of Bandolier for September 1975. This left plenty of time to promote Bandolier. Meanwhile, the critics had their say on the album.
They were won over by Bandolier, which found Budgie at their hard rocking best. Critics pointed out that Budgie were maturing and improving with each album. After five albums, Budgie had the potential to become one of the biggest British rock bands.
This was helped by Budgie’s new drummer Steve Williams quickly settling into his new role. He playing was powerful and punchy as he played with a newfound freedom. His drums helped propelled the arrangements along. Meanwhile, some critics were comparing Burke Shelley to Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Man. The similarity is noticeable on Who Do You Want For Your Love ?/Never Turn Your Back On A Friend and See My Feelings/Rock Climbing. As usual, Tony Bourge’s scorching, blistering, soaring guitar solos were playing a leading role in the sound and success of Bandolier. Especially on tracks like Breaking All The House Rules and I Can’t See My Feelings/Rock Climbing and I Ain’t No Mountain. Everything was coming together for Budgie on Bandolier.
They were still working hard and continued to reassess and reinvent their music. Constantly, they tweaked their sound adding or changing it. Over the past five albums, Budgie had moved from their early blues rock towards hard rock. Later, they incorporated folk, drew inspiration from The Beatles and moved in the direction of progressive rock. However, for much of the time, Budgie were an inventive, hard rocking band that always featured talented musicians. Proof of this was their four previous albums, and their fifth album Bandolier.
When Bandolier was released in September 1975, the album reached thirty-six in the UK. Alas, Bandolier hadn’t quite matched the success of In For The Kill. It had reached twenty-nine in 1974. However, Bandolier was certified gold. This was a first for Budgie.
A gold disc was the perfect way for Budgie to end their time at MCA. After five albums, where Budgie’s sound continued to evolve, the inventive Welsh trio’s popularity blossomed. By the time Bandolier was released in 1975, they had reached new levels of popularity. It was ironic that Budgie were about to leave MCA and sign for A&M Records.
The A&M Years.
Budgie’s hard work and persistence seemed to be beginning to pay off. They were signed by A&M Records, who Budgie hoped would be album to take them them to the next level. Critics agreed. Many critics thought that within a year or two, Budgie would be rubbing shoulders with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.
Having signed to A&M Records, Budgie returned with If I Were Brittania I’d Waive The Rules in April 1976. Reviews of the album were mixed. This didn’t auger well for the release of If I Were Britannia I’d Waive The Rules. It failed to chart. For Budgie, this wasn’t the best way to begin the A&M years.
It was nearly two years before Budgie returned in February 1978, with the band’s seventh album Impeckable. Just like If I Were Britannia I’d Waive The Rules, reviews of the album were mixed. When the album was released, it failed to chart. For Budgie, this was a disaster for more reason than one.
In late 1979, Budgie were dropped by A&M Records. For the first time since 1970, Budgie had no recording contract. Surely, things couldn’t get any worse?
It did. Founder member and guitarist Tony Bourge left Budgie in 1980. He was replaced by John Thomas, who would make his recording debut with Budgie
weren’t ‘t For The Kill reached twenty-nine in the UK and Bandolier thirty-six. That looked like it was the start of the rise and rise of Budgie. Many critics thought that within a year or two, Budgie would be rubbing shoulders with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Sadly, Budgie never built on the success in 1980.
The Active Records Years.
Kingsley Wards’ Active Records was a relatively new record company. It had only been founded in 1980, but already the label had signed a distribution deal with RCA. Even with this distribution deal in place, it was still something of a coup for Active Records to sign Budgie.
They released their eighth studio album Power Supply in October 1980. This was the first new album from the new lineup of the band. One thing didn’t change, was that the reviews were mixed. Budgie’s last three albums seemed to polarise the opinion of critics and fans. Power Supply became Budgie’s third consecutive album that had failed to chart. It was another disappointment for the hard rocking trio.
Despite the disappointing sales of Power Supply, Budgie returned to the studio and a year later, returned with their ninth album Nightflight. While there were still some dissenting voices amongst critics, mostly the album was well received. Things were looking up for Budgie. Especially when Nightflight charted and reached sixty-eight in the UK. Nightflight was Budgie first album to chart since Bandolier in 1975. Then when Keeping a Rendezvous was released as a single, it reached number seventy-one in the UK. It looked as if Budgie’s fortunes were improving.
The RCA Years.
RCA who distributed Active Records’ releases signed Budgie after Nightflight. This looked like perfect timing as Budgie were still a popular live draw. They had supported Ozzy Osbourne during his Blizzard of Ozz Tour in 1980 and 1981. Budgie a had a huge following in Poland, where they became the first band play behind the Iron Curtain. However, in Britain, Budgie popularity had been on the rise since the New Wave of British Heavy Metal began. This cumulated with Budgie headlining the Reading Festival in the summer 1982. It looked their star was once again in the ascendancy, For a band who were about to release a new album, it was perfect timing.
Budgie released their tenth album Deliver Us From Evil in October 1982. Deliver Us From marked the debut of keyboardist Duncan MacKay as a full member of Budgie. He was an experienced musician who previously, had been a member Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel and 10CC. However, Duncan MacKay didn’t play a part in the writing of Deliver Us From Evil.
It was written by the other three members of Budgie and was their first concept album. Given the political climate, Deliver Us From Evil was particularly relevant. Burke Shelley described the album as one that “attacks the power structures of East and West and the balance of terror…and…refers to all kinds of evil, not just The Bomb and war, but the main theme calls for world peace.” When Deliver Us From Evil was released in October 1982, critics heard a much more commercial sounding album. However, the reviews of Deliver Us From Evil were mixed. It reached sixty-two in the UK and became Budgie’s most successful album since Bandolier in 1976.
Despite the relative success of Deliver Us From Evil, Budgie never released another album for RCA. Their time at RCA was brief, and it would be twenty-four years before Budgie released another album.
Budgie continued to play live until 1988. However, Budgie stopped playing live in 1988 and the members of the band embarked on careers in production. After twenty-years, it looked as if the Budgie story was over.
Twenty-four years later, and Budgie were back. They were about to embark upon a thirty-five date tour of Poland. To coincide with the tour, Budgie released their eleventh album You’re All Living In Cuckooland. Only Burke Shelley and Steve Williams remained from the previous incarnation of Budgie. Despite touring You’re All Living In Cuckooland., it failed to chart. Budgie’s eleventh album was their swan-song.
For Budgie, it was a case of what might have been. Budgie were one of the hardest rocking bands of the early seventies. They had the potential to become one of the biggest names in British rock, and could’ve and should’ve gone on to become one of biggest names in British rock. Sadly, Budgie never reached the heights that their music deserved. It was a case of what might have been?
Maybe things would’ve been different if Budgie had stayed at MCA? That was where Budgie released the best music of their career. Their move to A&M Records coincided with the decline in Budgie’s fortunes. Never again did the band enjoy the same commercial success and critical acclaim. That was despite signing to A&M Records and RCA. However, the spells with both labels proved brief and unsuccessful. As a result, Budgie never built on the success In For The Kill and Bandolier. These two albums were the most successful of Budgie’s eleven album career.
When Budgie released In For The Kill and Bandolier, it looked as if they were destined for greatness, and soon, would be rubbing shoulders with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. However, while the unholy trinity released million selling albums and toured the world, commercial success started to elude Budgie.
What didn’t help was that Budgie’s lineup changed several times. Ray Phillips was the first to leave. He left after the release of Never Turn Your Back On A Friend and missed out on the success of In For The Kill and Bandolier. However, this was just the first of several changes in Budgie’s lineup. By1980, Burke Shelley was the last man standing. The other two original members of Budgie had left the band. Despite recruiting talented musicians, Budgie and releasing six further studio albums, they never came close to reaching the heights of In For The Kill and Bandolier.
Eleven years after Budgie released their swan-song You’re All Living In Cuckooland in 2006, the hard rocking trio are now regarded as one of the greatest hard rock groups of the early seventies. The music Budgie released on MCA is regarded as the best music of their long career. Especially, the trio released between 1973 and 1975. This began with Never Turn Your Back On A Friend, then In For The Kill and Bandolier. These three albums feature Budgie at their hard rocking best. Just like the other two albums Budgie released for MCA, they’re a reminder of an oft-overlooked and underrated band. However, Budgie had the talent to become one of the most successful, hard rocking bands of the seventies. Sadly, Lady Luck didn’t smile on Budgie. Instead, it’s a case of what might have been for Budgie.
Budgie-A Case Of What Might Have Been.
The Life and Music Of Sea Level.
By August 1975, all wasn’t well within The Allman Brothers. It hadn’t been for the last couple of years. That was despite The Allman Brothers being at the peak of their popularity. Their last three albums had sold over a million copies and were certified platinum. Meanwhile, The Allman Brothers were one of the most successful live band. They regularly earned over $100,000 a show during their 1974 tour. This allowed The Allman Brothers to hire Led Zeppelin’s private jet Starship, and fly coast to coast in style. However, the constant touring was part of the problem,
Several of The Allman Brothers’ had developed serious drug problems. Now that the band had more money than ever, their drug problems began to spiral out of control. This wasn’t the only problem though.
Some members of The Allman Brothers were no longer as close as they once had been. It seemed the friendship had gone from the band. Greg Allman and Dickie Betts had both released successful solo albums during 1974. The following year, three other members of The Allman Brothers decided to form a new band as a side project.
The the band was named We Three by its founding members. They were Jai Johanny Johanson a.k.a. Jaimoe, bassist Lamar Williams and keyboardist, pianist and vocalist Chuck Leavell. When the new band was formed they were keen to stress that We Three would work round The Allman Brothers’ schedule. They were going to be busy between August 1975 and May 1976.
In August 1975, The Allman Brothers release their sixth album Win, Lose Or Draw in August 1975. When it was released, it didn’t receive the same critical acclaim as previous albums. Still, though, Win, Lose Or Draw reached number five in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. By then, the Allman Brothers had headed out on the road and were playing forty-one arena shows. Some nights, the shows were disjointed and lacklustre. It was as if The Allman Brothers were merely going through the motions. This was very different to the band that some nights opened for The Allman Brothers, We Three.
Occasionally, the nascent We Three took to the stage. Those that saw the band play, were impressed by We Three. They were the complete opposite of the Allman Brothers, who some nights, looked as if they were on their last legs.That proved to be the case.
For the Allman Brother, their 1975-1976 tour wasn’t their finest hour. Some nights, they didn’t even bother with a soundcheck. They just headed out on stage and seemed to be going through the motions. The band didn’t play well, and were a shadow of their former selves. What didn’t help was the excessive drug use, bad feeling between the band and death threats.
The bad feeling and death threats stemmed from Greg Allman’s decision to testify in the trial of security man Scooter Herring. This didn’t go down well with the rest of The Allman Brothers. They saw Greg Allman as a snitch. Following the trial, the rest of the band stopped communicating with Greg Allman. Meanwhile, he started to receive death threats. For Greg Allman and the rest of the band, this only made a bad situation worse.
In May 1976, the Allman Brothers returned from their forty-one date tour. By then, the writing was already on the wall. The Allman Brothers split-up. Greg Allman formed the Greg Allman Band; Dickie Betts formed Great Southern while Jaimoe, Lamar Williams and Chuck Leavell decided to continue as Sea Level.
No longer were the three friends playing together as We Three. They had decided to changed the band’s name to Sea Level. This was a result of some wordplay surrounding Chuck Leavell’s name. His family always pronounced their surname as level. Chuck took the first initial from his christian name, and Sea Level were born. The newly named band began honing their sound.
By then, three had become four. Guitarist Jimmy Nail joined Sea Level as the band headed out on tour. Over the next few weeks and months, dedicated themselves to honing and tightening their sound. Some nights, Sea Level experimented, by heading in different directions musicians. Mostly, though, they concentrated on refining, tightening and honing their sound. This paid off, and eventually, Sea Level were ready to record an album.
By then, several record companies were chasing Sea Level’s signature. Eventually, the band settled on Capricorn Records, which had been home to the Allman Brothers. Once the contacts were signed, Sea Level began work on their eponymous debut album.
For Sea Level’s debut album, Chuck Leavell became the band’s songwriter-in-chief. He wrote five of the eight songs. The other three tracks were covers of Edward Hoerner’s Shake A Leg, Neil Larsen’s Grand Larceny and the traditional song Scarborough Fair. These songs were recorded with one of the most successful producers of the seventies, Stewart Levine.
Recording took place at Capricorn Sound Studios, in Macon, Georgia. This was familiar territory for the three members of Sea Level, as the Allman Brothers had recorded at Capricorn Sound Studios. To augment Sea Level, guitarist Jimmy Nails and a horn section were brought onboard. Meanwhile, Sam Whiteside engineered the sessions. They progressed smoothly, with Sea Level combining Southern Rock and jazz-funk. Once Sea Level was complete, it was ready for release on Capricorn Records later in 1976.
Before that, critics had their say on Sea Level’s eponymous debut album. Sea Level was well received by critics, who complimented the nascent band on their debut album. Despite the reviews, Sea Level failed to make an impression on the charts. Despite this, Sea Level decided to expand for their sophomore album, Cats On The Coast.
Cats On The Coast.
Shortly after the release of Sea Level became a sextet. Drummer and percussionist George Weaver joined, which allowed Jaimoe to switch to congas. The other two newcomers were guitarist Davis Causey and keyboardist, saxophonist and vocalist Randall Bramblett joined Sea Level. The newly expanded band began working on their sophomore album, Cats On The Coast.
This time round, Chuck Leavell wrote just two of eights songs, Storm Warning and Song For Amy. Davis Causey wrote Cats On The Coast and cowrote That’s Your Secret with Randall Bramblett. He penned Every Little Thing and also cowrote Had To Fall with Jimmy Nalls and Lamar Williams. The other two songs were cover versions, including Neil Larson’s Midnight Pass and Hurts to Want It So Bad which Charles Feldman, Tim Smith and Steve Smith penned. Just like their debut album, Sea Level returned to Capricorn Sound Studios.
At Capricorn Sound Studios, producer Stewart Levine and engineer Sam Whiteside began work with the newly expanded Sea Level. Other sessions took place in Los Angeles, at Hollywood Sound Recorders. Gradually, Cats On The Coast began to take shape and eventually was completed.
Cats On The Coast was scheduled for released later in 1977. Before that, critics had their say on Sea Level’s sophomore album. It found Sea Level switching between Southern Rock and fusion. While the album found favour with critics, Cats On The Coast passed record buyers by.While the album failed to chart, the lead single That’s Your Secret reached fifty in the US Billboard 100. It was a small crumb of comfort for Sea Level.
They had released two albums, but neither had come close to troubling the charts. It was frustrating for Sea Level. They knew that there was nothing wrong with the music. Instead, it was a case of the wrong albums at the wrong time. Southern Rock was no longer as popular as it had once been. Many Southern Rock bands weren’t enjoy the success they once had. For a new band like Sea Level, trying to make a breakthrough was doubly difficult. So much so, that two members of Sea Level decided to leave the band just before work began on their third album, On The Edge.
On The Edge.
Exiting stage left were Jaimoe and George Weaver. This left Sea Level without a drummer. However, drummer Joe English was recruited and Sea Level continued as a sextet.
Just like Cats On The Coast, several members of Sea Level contributed songs to On The Edge. Chuck Leavell wrote A Lotta Colada and Uptown Downtown, and penned On The Wing with Lamar Williams. Jimmy Nails wrote Fifty-Four while Randall Bramblett contributed This Could Be The Worst and Electron Cold. He wrote King Grand with Davis Causey. The two men also wrote Living In A Dream with Arch Pearson. These eights songs would become On The Edge.
Just like their two previous albums, On The Edge was recorded at Capricorn Sound Studios, with producer Stewart Levine and engineer Sam Whiteside. This was the third lineup of Sea Level they had worked with. However, they were all experienced musicians, and the recording sessions went to plan. Some additional sessions took place at The Hit Factory, in New York. After that, On The Edge was ready for release later in 1978.
Prior to the release, critics received their advance copies of On The Edge. They discovered an album where Sea Level switched between and combined elements of Southern Rock, fusion and jazz-funk. It was a slick, accomplished and well produced band that featured a tight and talented band. Praise and plaudits preceded the release of On The Edge. Despite this, the album failed commercially and didn’t come close to troubling the charts. For Sea Level, it was yet another disappointment.
Long Walk On A Short Pier.
Despite the commercial failure of On The Edge, Sea Level weren’t about to give up. They began work on their fourth album Long Walk On A Short Pier.
Chuck Leavell wrote two new songs for Long Walk On A Short Pier, Tear Down This Wall and Just A Touch. Lamar Williams penned Just A Touch, while Jimmy Nails wrote Twenty Miles From Nowhere and penned A Two ’n’ Two with Davis Causey. He contributed Canine Man and Thirsty, and then wrote Morning Light with Randall Bramblett. The other song was a cover of the Weaver-Walker composition Too Many Broken Hearts. With the material for Long Walk On A Short Pier complete, Sea Level made the journey to Macon, Georgia. They were joined by a new band member percussionist and conga player David Earle Johnson.
When Sea Level arrived at Capricorn Sound Studios, nothing seemed to have changed. The studio looked the same as ever. However, this time, Sea Level were going to co-produce Long Walk On A Short Pier with engineer turned producer Sam Whiteside. He had engineered Sea Level’s three previous albums, so knew how the band worked. Sam Whiteside had served his apprenticeship and was ready to step out of Stewart Levine’s shadow.
Despite his promotion to co-producer, Sam Whiteside still engineered Long Walk On A Short Pier. He brought David Pinkston onboard, to assist him with his engineering duties. They watched on as Sea Level switched between Southern Rock and fusion on Long Walk On A Short Pier. The music seemed to flow through Sea Level. Gradually, Long Walk On A Short Pier began to take shape and the album almost complete.
All that recorded was for a horn section to be overdubbed at Sea Saint Studio, in New Orleans. Then Long Walk On A Short Pier would be ready for release by Capricorn Records.
Little did Sea Level know that all wasn’t well at Capricorn Records. The label was teetering on the verge of insolvency as promotional copies of Long Walk On A Short Pier were sent out. Sea Level were totally unaware of this.
When reviews of Long Walk On A Short Pier were published, critics were impressed by Sea Level’s fourth album. Just like their previous album, Sea Level flitted between Southern Rock and fusion on Long Walk On A Short Pier. It was another accomplished album from Sea Level. Maybe it would’ve been the album that transformed their fortunes?
It wasn’t to be. Just as Long Walk On A Short Pier was released, Capricorn Records went out of business. They were insolvent and had no option but to file for bankruptcy. For Sea Level, this was a disaster. Their fourth album was dead in the water.
Copies of Long Walk On A Short Pier made it as far as distributors. That was as far as they got. Later, it became apparent that a few copies of Long Walk On A Short Pier made it into circulation. However, it wasn’t until 1998 that Long Walk On A Short Pier was heard by the wider record buying public.
After Capricorn Records filed for bankruptcy, the future looked bleak for Sea Level. They had recorded an album that was never released properly. That cost the band time and money. They could’ve been touring, as Sea Level were still a popular draw on the live circuit. All the time, expense and effort that went into recording Long Walk On A Short Pier had been for nothing. Now they were left with no recording contract. Despite this, Sea Level decided to record a new album with producer Sam Whiteside, Ball Room.
Having made the decision to continue, there was a change in Sea Level’s lineup. Percussionist and conga player David Earle Johnson left the band. He was replaced by percussionist Matt Greeley, who was about to make his recording debut.
Before that, the members of Sea Level began work on writing their fifth album. Chuck Leavell wrote Anxiously Awaiting and Don’t Want To Be Wrong, while Lamar Williams contributed Struttin’. Randall Bramblett penned Wild Side, School Teacher, Comfort Range and Brandstand. He also wrote We Will Wait and You Mean So Much To Me with Davis Causey. These nine songs would become Ball Room, which was recorded at two studios.
For the first time since Sea Level were founded, they weren’t heading to Capricorn Recording Studios to record an album. Instead, Ball Room was recorded at Axis Sound Studio and Web IV Studios. Engineer Sam Whiteside co-produced Ball Room with Sea Level. They put their considerable talents were put to good use on Ball Room. Onlookers witnessed Sea Level in full flight, with Chuck Leavell and Randall Bramblett sharing lead vocals. Once Ball Room was complete, Sea Level started shopping the album to record labels.
Eventually, it was Clive Davis’ Arista Records that expressed an interest in signing Sea Level. Clive Davis was the man with the Midas touch. He had transformed the career of countless artists and groups. Sea Level were hoping he could do the same for them. So they signed on the dotted line, and hoped that Clive Davis would work his magic.
Later in 1980, Ball Room was scheduled for release by Arista. After five albums, they were at last, signed to a label with the financial muscle and expertise to get behind Sea Level’s fifth album Ball Room. Arista Records go to work on promoting Ball Room.
Critics who were sent copies of Ball Room found Sea Level at the top of their game on album that featured bar room rock, jazz, funk, pop and Southern Rock. It featured beautiful ballad, mid tempo tracks and uptempo tracks where Sea Level kick loose. Ball Room was, without, doubt, one of the best albums of Sea Level’s five album career.
When Ball Room was released in 1980, it followed in the footsteps of their previous albums, and failed to chart. For Sea Level this was a disaster. Things got worse when the lead single School Teacher never came close to troubling the charts. Sea Level were at a crossroads.
As 1981 dawned, Sea Level realised that after five years and five albums, they were no further on. Sea Level had nothing to show for fives years of recording and touring. All that hard work had been for nothing. Part of the problem was Sea Level released their albums at the wrong time.
If Sea Level’s five albums had been released earlier in the seventies, when Southern Rock was at the peak of its popularity then things would’ve been very different. Realising that music was changing, Sea Level tried to move away from their Southern Rock roots.
While Southern Rock featured on each of their albums, Sea Level’s first four albums headed in the direction of fusion, jazz-funk and even blues and rock. Then on Ball Room, Sea Level flit between Southern Rock to jazz, funk, pop and rock. They’re even transformed into a bar room band on School Teacher on Ball Room. It was part of what was one of Sea Level’s most eclectic and underrated albums. Sadly, commercial success continued to elude Sea Level on Ball Room, which nowadays is an oft-overlooked hidden gem. Ball Room was Sea Level’s swan-song. They decided to call time on the band. There was only one problem.
Over the last five years, Sea Level had run up some debts. They were in the red and the time came to settle their debuts. Sea Level had to embark on one more tour. When the venues were finalised, it was apparent that Sea Level were going to be playing mostly dive bars. Many of them were situated in low rent shopping centres. Realising this, Sea Level decided to call the tour the Shopping Centre Tour. That was the last laugh Sea Level enjoyed.
The Shopping Centre Tour was a soul-destroying experience for Sea Level. They played dive bars and slept in the cheapest motels they could find. It was a miserable experience. Especially as Sea Level were only receiving expenses. Eventually, the tour was over and the band were free of their debts. That was the last time Sea Level played together as a band.
They had been together seven eventful years, and released five albums that showcase a truly talented band. Sadly, the five albums that Sea Level released between 1977 and 1980 failed to find an audience. Since then, Sea Level’s music has been one of music’s best kept secrets, and has been enjoyed by a small, but discerning audience. This is starting to change and somewhat belatedly, Sea Level’s quintet of albums are starting to find the wider audience that it so richly deserves.
The Life and Music Of Sea Level.
Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ Major Label Years.
Ozark Mountain Daredevils roots can be traced back to 1971, when a group of friends in Springfield, Missouri began playing as Family Tree. By 1972, the band had changed its name to Ozark Mountain Daredevils and were being managed by folk rock duo Brewer and Shipley.
This came about after Ozark Mountain Daredevils sent Brewer and Shipley a copy of their second demo tape. They listened to the tape, and liked it so much they agreed to manage the band. Brewer and Shipley began formulating a plan for Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ future.
Part of this plan involved Ozark Mountain Daredevils heading out to play on the live circuit. One of Ozark Mountain Daredevils earliest concerts was at the Cowtown Ballroom in Kansas City on February 8th 1973. Over the few months, Ozark Mountain Daredevils became familiar faces on the live circuit. Soon, Ozark Mountain Daredevils were a popular draw on the local live circuit. Throughout the rest of 1972 and into 1973, Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ popularity grew. Then fate intervened.
A copt of Ozark Mountain Daredevils demo found its way to A&M Records staff producer David Anderle. He liked what he heard, and was in the market for a country rock band similar to The Eagles. So David Anderle and Glyn Johns flew to Missouri to see the Ozark Mountain Daredevils play at the at Cowtown Ballroom on March 10th 1973. However, when Ozark Mountain Daredevils heard that the two men from A&M would be in audience, they became nervous and didn’t give their best performance. Fortunately, Paul Peterson rescued the situation.
He invited David Anderle and Glyn Johns to his house, where Ozark Mountain Daredevils gave unplugged performance by candlelight. It may have been an unorthodox audition but it worked, and Ozark Mountain Daredevils signed A&M Records on May 1st 1973.
Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
Straight away, A&M Records sent Ozark Mountain Daredevils to England, where they recorded their eponymous debut album with David Anderle and Glyn Johns. During June and July 1973, Ozark Mountain Daredevils recorded ten tracks where they fused country rock and Southern rock. Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ unique brand of Southern fried country rock proved popular.
When Ozark Mountain Daredevils was released in December 1973, it was well received by critics and reached twenty-six in the US Billboard 200. The lead single If You Wanna Get To Heaven the reached twenty-five in the US Billboard 100, and twenty-three in Canada. Ozark Mountain Daredevils were on their way.
It’ll Shine When It Shines.
Buoyed by the success of their debut album, Ozark Mountain Daredevils began work on their sophomore album It’ll Shine When It Shines in early 1974. This time, Ozark Mountain Daredevils had managed to convince A&M Records to record the album locally.
So David Anderle and Glyn Johns made the journey to Missouri where Ozark Mountain Daredevils were rehearsing in a pre-American Civil War farmhouse. That was where the album would be recorded by a mobile recording studio. Ozark Mountain Daredevils seemed to relax in their home environment, and the two producers managed to capture some of the best songs of their band’s career. This would include the swamp rocker E.E. Lawson and Jackie Blue, which was released as a single later in 1974.
It’ll Shine When It Shines was released to widespread critical acclaim in October 1974. When the album was released, it reached number nineteen in the US Billboard 200. Jackie Blue which was sung by drummer Larry Lee, was chosen as the lead single. On its release, it reached number three in the US Billboard 200 and number two in Canada. Elsewhere, Jackie Blue was a hit in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The success of Jackie Blue had transformed the fortunes of Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Now they had to build on this success.
The Car Over The Lake Album.
Having just enjoyed the most successful album of their career, A&M Records were keen that Ozark Mountain Daredevils should enter the studio as soon as possible. This time though, there were several changes.
The first was that David Anderle took charge of production. Glyn Johns who had co-produced Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ first two albums, was nowhere to be seen. Another change was that Bill Jones who rejoined Ozark Mountain Daredevils. He would also arranged the songs on The Car Over The Lake Album. It was recorded in the country music capital Nashville. This was a bone of contention,
A&M Records’ executive wanted Ozark Mountain Daredevils to move to Southern California, where much of then music industry was based. However, Ozark Mountain Daredevils weren’t willing to move. This was just one sticking point. A&M Records wanted Ozark Mountain Daredevils to tour more. The band weren’t willing to embark on the lengthy tours like other bands. Nor were Ozark Mountain Daredevils willing to try and replicate Jackie Blue on The Car Over The Lake Album. All this didn’t please executives at A&M Records. Ozark Mountain Daredevils weren’t exactly winning friends and influencing people.
When The Car Over The Lake Album was completed, the album was released in September 1975 to praise and plaudits. However, the album stalled at fifty-seven in the US Billboard 200. This was disappointing after the success of It’ll Shine When It Shines. Then when If I Only Knew was released as a single, it reached just seventy-four in the US Billboard 100 and sixty-five in Canada. Already, executives at A&M were beginning to lose interest in Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
Men From Earth.
Following the release of The Car Over The Lake Album, Ozark Mountain Daredevils headed out on a European tour during April and May 1976. By then, the band was exhausted with the schedule of recording and touring.
Tension was high during a concert in Copenhagen. The engineer was struggling with the mix, and a frustrated Randle Chowning decided to turn his amplifier up to eleven. This resulted in him getting involved in a slanging match with other band members. When Ozark Mountain Daredevils returned home, Randle Chowning decided to embark upon a solo career. This was the start of personnel changes within Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
Replacing Randle Chowning in Ozark Mountain Daredevils was Rune Walle, who the band met on tour. He lead his own band, The Flying Norwegians. Now he was about to become a member of Ozark Mountain Daredevils and would make his debut on Men From Earth
Recording of Men From Earth began before the European tour. Now it was a matter of completing the album. Just like The Car Over The Lake Album, it was produced by David Anderle. Men Form Earth was recorded in Quadrofonic Sound Studios, in Nashville, American Artist Studio, in Springfield, Missouri and at Caribou Ranch, in Colorado. Once Men From Earth was complete, it was released in autumn of 1976.
Men From Earth marked the end of an era. It was founder member Randle Chowning’s swan-song. However, when the album was released in September 1976, he was no longer listed as a member of the band. Instead, he was named as one of the “Sidemen From Earth.” They played their part in an album that won over critics. Especially two of the songs penned by Larry Lee, You Know Like I Know and the Homemade Wine. Given the critics response to Men From Earth, maybe Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ luck was changing?
Despite winning favour with critics, Men From Earth reached just seventy-four in the US Billboard 200. Then when You Know Like I Know was released, it reached seventy-four in the US Billboard 100 and sixty-two in Canada. For Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Men From Earth was the least successful album of their career. It was a worrying time for the band.
Don’t Look Down.
For their fifth album Don’t Look Down, it was all change for Ozark Mountain Daredevils. There had been another departure from the band. Buddy Brayfield was next to leave. He had decided to head to medical school. This was a big loss.
Ozark Mountain Daredevils decided to add three new musicians. This included their longtime friend, singer and guitarist Steve Canaday. He was joined by mandolin player Jerry Mills, and keyboardist and vocalist Ruell Chappell. The new additions made their debut on Don’t Look Down, where Ozark Mountain Daredevils were joined by a new producer.
David Kershenbaum was chosen to produce Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ fifth album Don’t Look Down. Part of his remit was to transform Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ along fortunes. Ever since the release of It’ll Shine When It Shines in 1974, Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ albums had failed to sell in the same quantities. When Men From Earth reached seventy-four in the US Billboard 200, this was the lowest chart placing of any Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ album. Surely, the only way was up?
Recording of Don’t Look Down took place at Caribou Ranch, Colorado. A mobile studio was brought in to record the album. Still it seemed that Ozark Mountain Daredevils were determined to do things their way. They recorded eleven new songs which they hoped would transform the fortunes of Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
Once Don’t Look Down was completed, the album was scheduled for release in October 1977. Don’t Look Down which featured the latest lineup of Ozark Mountain Daredevils was well received by critics. However, when Don’t Look Down was released, it stalled at a lowly 130 in the US Billboard 200. This was the lowest chart placing of any of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ albums.
There were several explanations for this. Country rock and Southern rock had been hugely popular when Ozark Mountain Daredevils released their first two albums. Alas, that was no longer the case. Now there was a disco boom, which was affecting all types of musicians. From soul to country rock and Southern rock, the disco boom was impacting on record sales. The slick, formulaic sound of disco seemed to filled the American charts. That was what American record buyers wanted to hear. So many artists from other genres sold their soul to the disco devil, and did what many thought was unthinkable, and released a disco record. Not Ozark Mountain Daredevils though; they had other plans.
Back in the seventies, most rock bands released a live album. That was something Ozark Mountain Daredevils had still to do. So they decided to record a live album in April 1978.
To record I’m Alive, Ozark Mountain Daredevils decided to tape concerts that they were due to play in Missouri and Kansas during April 1978. This would allow Ozark Mountain Daredevils to cherry pick the best recordings for their forthcoming double live album.
So Ozark Mountain Daredevils hired a mobile recording studio for the live dates in April 1978. Ozark Mountain Daredevils had picked the perfect concerts to record. They were playing in front of their hometown crowd. Joining them each night Buddy Brayfield who made a guest appearance. Each night, Ozark Mountain Daredevils seemed to lift their game each night. There was plenty of material to choose for the forthcoming live album.
Eventually, Ozark Mountain Daredevils who produced I’m Alive, chose sixteen tracks. This included singles and some of their most popular album tracks. They featured on the double live album I’m Alive, which was due to be released in the autumn of 1978. It was a hugely important album for Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
So much so, that I’m Alive was the most important album Ozark Mountain Daredevils had released in many a year. Ozark Mountain Daredevils only owed A&M Records one more album. After I’m Alive, Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ contract was up. However, A&M Records held an option to give Ozark Mountain Daredevils a new contract. They seemed to be undecided about Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ future. If I’m Alive sold well, then this might result in A&M Records taking up the option.
I’m Alive was well received by critics. It found Ozark Mountain Daredevils rolling back the years. The critical response to the album bode well for the release of I’m Alive in September 1978. However, when I’m Alive was released, it reached a lowly 178 in the US Billboard 200. Suddenly, Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ future at A&M Records’ looked in doubt.
That was apart from those who had witnessed Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ performance on The Midnight Special. They had been booked as the special guest, and were to play a set. This was the perfect showcase for Ozark Mountain Daredevils, and could help rejuvenate their career.
The disco years hadn’t been kind to country rock bands like the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Their record sales had fallen between 1976 and 1978. The last album Ozark Mountain Daredevils released was It’s Alive in 1978, which stalled at 176 in the US Billboard 200.
This couldn’t have come at worse time, as the band’s contract with A&M was coming to an end. At least A&M still held an option to give Ozark Mountain Daredevils a new contract. A good performance on The Midnight Show would maybe convince A&M to renew Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ contract?
Fortunately, Ozark Mountain Daredevils caught a break. The band were invited to appear on a forthcoming appearance on The Midnight Show later in September 1978.
Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ managers contacted executives at A&M know about the band’s forthcoming appearance on The Midnight Show. A&M were still undecided about picking up the option on Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ contract. So it was decided that Jerry Moss would head to Los Angeles to see Ozark Mountain Daredevils play live on The Midnight Show.
The Ozark Mountain Daredevils had flown to Los Angeles to play on The Midnight Show. This was a prestigious television show, and had the potential to introduce Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ music to a new and much wider audience. All Ozark Mountain Daredevils had to do was play a short set. There was a problem though.
Before going onstage, some members of Ozark Mountain Daredevils had been alleged that the band had been some enjoying backstage hospitality. As they took to the stage, it was obvious that some of the band were under the inebriated. They flew through their set and then took their leave. A&M Records’ Jerry Moss who was watching on, wasn’t amused.
Jerry Moss had the final say on Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ future. He decided not to pickup the option on their contract. Ozark Mountain Daredevils were dropped by A&M Records in 1979.
After six years at A&M Records, Ozark Mountain Daredevils were without a recording contract. The band faced an uncertain future. Things had changed quickly for the band. Less than a year earlier, they were opening for Fleetwood Mac. Now they were without a recording contract. That was until Columbia Records approached Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
They signed to Columbia Records in 1979. For Ozark Mountain Daredevils, it was a new start for one of the finest purveyors of Southern fried country rock. Being dropped by A&M Records had been a wakeup call. Now Ozark Mountain Daredevils were ready to begin work on their seventh studio album, which became Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
It was a very different lineup of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils that began work on what was their second eponymous album. Only four members of the band remained. Steve Cash, John Dillon, Michael Granda and Larry Lee had been with Ozark Mountain Daredevils since the group was formed. They were the last men standing in Ozark Mountain Daredevils. The rest of the band had left to pursue other projects.
The four members of Ozark Mountain Daredevils that remained, went away and began writing their next album. John Dillon, Larry Lee and Steve Cash penned Take You Tonight, Jump At The Chance, Empty Cup, Rosalie, Runnin’ Out and Fool’s Gold. John Dillon and Steve Cash wrote Tuff Luck and cowrote two other songs. He cowrote Sailin’ Around The World with Steve Cash, and then penned Lovin’ You with former Flying Norwegian frontman Rune Walle. Larry Lee contributed Oh, Darlin’ to Ozark Mountain Daredevils. It was recorded in Los Angeles.
Given Ozark Mountain Daredevils had newly signed to Columbia Records, them weren’t really in a position to call the shots about where the album was recorded. So Ozark Mountain Daredevils made the journey to Los Angeles, where two of the city’s top studios were used. Recording sessions took place at Westlake Studios and The Record Plant with producer John Boylan. Harmonica player and vocalist Steve Cash joined guitarist and vocalist John Dillon; bassist Michael Granda and Larry Lee Michael who played keyboards, guitar, percussion and added vocals. Augmenting Ozark Mountain Daredevils were backing vocalists and some top session players.
Over the next weeks and months, Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ seventh studio album began to take shape. Eventually, the four members of the band Ozark Mountain Daredevils guided by producer John Boylan completed what was a very different album from their last couple of albums.
After Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ last two studio album failed commercially, the band decided to change tack. This was a big decision, and one they didn’t take lightly. The last thing they wanted to do was alienate their existing fans. However, if Ozark Mountain Daredevils didn’t reinvent their music, the future looked bleak. They couldn’t continue to release albums that reached the lower reaches of the US Billboard 200. So Ozark Mountain Daredevils marked the start of a brave new world.
Ozark Mountain Daredevils had recorded an album which featured everything from AOR, country rock, FM rock, pop, rock, Southern rock and the West Coast sound. Stylistically, it sounded as if Ozark Mountain Daredevils were following in the footsteps of The Eagles and the Little River Band by recording an album of carefully crafted, melodic and radio friendly songs. They were bang on trend, and should attract the attention of radio programers. If that was the case, then Ozark Mountain Daredevils would be the comeback Kings.
All Ozark Mountain Daredevils had to do was convince critics and record buyers. Ozark Mountain Daredevils were halfway their when critics hailed their eponymous album their finest album of recent years. That was no surprise, given the quality of songs on Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be. When Ozark Mountain Daredevils was released, the album reached just 170 in the US Billboard 200. This was slightly better than I’m Alive. However, it wasn’t good enough for Columbia Records, and for the second time in two years they were dropped by a record label. For Ozark Mountain Daredevils it was the last album they released on a major label.
That wasn’t the end of The Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ story. They continued to play live over the next three decades. Alas, they no longer were as popular as they once were. It was changed days for The Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
What was also very different was The Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ lineup. It was very different from the band’s glory days. During this period, the band’s lineup was fluid, with members of the band leaving, being replaced and sometimes, returning. However, what the different lineups of The Ozark Mountain Daredevils didn’t do, was release another studio album until 1997.
Seventeen years after the release of The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, they released 13, which failed to trouble the charts. That proved to be The Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ swan-song. Never again would they release another studio album. After seven studio albums, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils recording career was over.
While The Ozark Mountain Daredevils continued to play live, they never ever returned to the studio. After releasing seven albums between 1973 and 1997, was the end of era for The Ozark Mountain Daredevils. They’re regarded as one of the finest purveyors of Southern fried country rock, and a group who left behind a rich musical legacy, especially the music The Ozark Mountain Daredevils released during The Major Label Years.
Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ Major Label Years.
Hedvig Mollestad Trio-Smells Funny.
Label: Rune Grammofon.
Ever since the Hedvig Mollestad Trio was founded in 2009, this inimitable group has been pushing musical boundaries and creating inventive and innovative genre-melting music. That is the case on their latest album Smells Funny, which was released by Rune Grammofon. It’s the sixth album since the Hedvig Mollestad Trio were founded in 2009 by guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen.
The Hedvig Mollestad Trio hit the headlines when they played at the prestigious Molde International Jazz Festival in 2009. The newly formed band won the Jazztalentprisen award for the best “young jazz talent.” This was the start of the rise and rise of the Hedvig Mollestad Trio.
Two years later, in 2011, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio released their critically acclaimed debut album Shoot on Rune Grammofon. With their unique and inimitable genre-melting sound the future looked bright for the Hedvig Mollestad Trio.
Another two years passed before the Hedvig Mollestad Trio returned with All Of Them Witches in 2013. Not only did it received the same critical acclaim as Shoot, but won a Norwegian Grammy in the rock category. This set the bar high for the Hedvig Mollestad Trio’s next album.
When they returned in May 2014 with Enfant Terrible it was hailed as a career defining album. Enfant Terrible was the finest album of the Hedvig Mollestad Trio’s career. However after that, they concentrated on playing live for two years.
After this two year absence, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio returned with not one, but two albums. This included their fourth studio album Black Stabat Mater, which is: “a genre-melting opus, that brings back memories of the golden age of rock.” The other album is Evil In Oslo, which is the Hedvig Mollestad Trio’s first ever live album which was tantalising taste of the Hedvig Mollestad Trio live.
Now just under three years later, and after sharing the stage with jazz and rock royalty including John McLaughlin and Black Sabbath, one of Norwegian music’s most explosive and expansive groups, Hedvig Mollestad Trio, return with Smells Funny, their sixth album in eight years where they continue to win friends and influence rock and jazz fans alike with their new album Smells Funny.
For rock fans, there’s plenty of blistering, scorching, searing and soaring licks as the Hedvig Mollestad Trio. Sometimes when the Hedvig Mollestad Trio play with a looseness they’re reminiscent of early
Black Sabbath. Other times, when they tighten up, they bring back memories of Led Zeppelin in their prime. Playing a starring role in the sound and success of the sound is Hedvig Mollestad who sometimes, seems to draw inspiration from Jimi Hendrix, and other times of John McLaughlin. That comes as no surprise on album where jazz and rock collide head on.
Away from the proliferation of rocky riffs, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio change direction and head towards much more free and open soundscapes like those that featured on their previous album Black Stabat Mater. This shows another side to a group fronted by one of the top guitarists in just Europe, Hedvig Mollestad.
Nowadays, there are way too many guitarists that are merely mediocre. That is a word that can never be used when describing the incredible Norwegian riffmeister Hedvig Mollestad. Her scorching, blazing and incendiary riffs have won fans amounts critics and record buyers who realise that Hedvig Mollestad is one of Europe’s finest and most versatile guitarists. However, the success of the Hedvig Mollestad Trio isn’t just down to its founder.
The Hedvig Mollestad Trio’s rhythm section is truly talented and enjoy their moment in the sub on Smells Funny. Drummer Ivar Loe Bjørnstad is neither a rock drummer nor a jazz drummer, but is versatile enough to play both genres of music with style, panache and sometimes a swagger. Other times, it’s case of providing the heartbeat while bassist Ellen Brekken holds down the groove or unleashes one of a series of technically complex runs. They’re part of the secret behind the music on Smells Funny and tracks like Beastie Beastie, First Thing to Pop Is the Eye, Lucidness and Bewitched, Dwarfed and Defeathered. These tracks mark the welcome return of the Hedvig Mollestad Trio after three long years away.
Smells Funny, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio’s new opus which was recently released by Rune Grammofon, is an album with its roots in the past and present. They should’ve been around at the same time as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix. Sonically and stylistically, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio’s music is a reminder of the golden age of rock, and its possible to imagine the Hedvig Mollestad Trio playing at the Whiskey A-Go-Go in Los Angeles or Fillmore East in San Francisco. However, the similarities between some of the legends of music and the Hedvig Mollestad Trio are no coincidence.
Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen who founded the Hedvig Mollestad Trio in 2009, grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix. Their influence can be heard on Smells Funny. So can the influence of legendary fusion guitarist John McLaughlin. Closer to home, one can’t help but wonder whether Moster! and Motorpsycho have influenced the Hedvig Mollestad Trio? These bands have a similar genre-melting sound to the Hedvig Mollestad Trio.
To create this genre-melting sound, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio fuse elements of rock with avant-garde, fusion, improv and jazz. Sometimes, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio seamlessly switch between musical genres mid track. Other times, disparate genres melt into one on Smells Funny as
the Hedvig Mollestad Trio throw a musical curveball as they take the listener on a magical mystery tour as they reach new heights on their first album for three long years. Welcome back, and don’t stay away so long next time.
The Rise and Demise Of A Musical Empire.
Musical history is littered with examples of entrepreneurs who thought they could make money out of running a record company. The only problem was, they lacked the specialised skills that were required. There was a way round this, by surrounding themselves with music industry professionals. Then they were in with a fighting change of running a profitable record company. However, some entrepreneurs have an ulterior motive when they a founded record company. This included Michael Thevis.
The story began in the early seventies, when Michael Thevis was looking for a legitimate way to get his substantial fortune into the financial system. By then, Michael Thevis was heavily involved in pornography. So much so, that he would later admit to a Louisville jury that he was: “the General Motors of pornography.” That was still to come.
In the early seventies, Michael Thevis had a problem. He discovered that he was under investigation from the FBI. Not wanting to follow in the footsteps of Al Capone and Dutch Schultz, who were brought down by federal investigations, Michael Thevis began looking for legitimate enterprises.
Casting around looking for a legitimate business, Michael Thevis hit upon the idea of forming not one, but three record labels. This included GRC (General Recording Corporation), Aware and Hotlanta Records. These labels would become part of Michael Thevis’ nascent musical empire.
Soon, there was a new addition to Michael Thevis’ musical empire, the Sound Pit Studio in Atlanta. It boasted some of the best equipment money could buy. Building the studio made financial sense. It saved hiring other studios, and meant artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records could record at the impressive Sound Pit Studio. When the studio wasn’t in use by Michael Thevis’ artists, it could be hired out, and bring in much needed income. However, as all this empire building continued, tongues began wagging, including Michael Thevis.
Veterans of the Atlanta music scene watched, as the state-of-the-art studio took shape. This was the most advanced studio in Atlanta. It was a similar case with the rest of Michael Thevis’ musical empire.
No expense was spared as Michael Thevis expanded his musical emprire. He added to his record labels and Act One publishing company, the Jason Management booking agency and a film company. They became part of Michael Thevis’ musical empire. He was proud of his empire, and wasn’t shy about telling people about it.
Rather than keep a low profile, Michael Thevis ran his musical empire from a lavish suite of offices in Atlanta. They were featured in Billboard in May 1974, when the magazine ran a feature on the Atlanta music industry. A bullish Michael Thevis told Billboard of his latest takeover, and his expansion plans.
Michael Thevis’ most recently acquisition was the Moonsong publishing company, which he had purchased from Bill Brandon. This became part of the GRC’s publishing division, alongside Act One, Michael Thevis’ own publishing company. To run the newly expanded publishing division, Bill Brandon joined GRC, and became the publishing manager of GRC’s R&B division. However, the acquisition of Moonsong was just part of Michael Thevis’ grand plan.
Michael Thevis told Billboard of his plans to build a brand new twenty-eight story skyscraper in Atlanta. This would be where he ran his musical empire. It would have outposts in Nashville, Houston, Los Angles, New York and London. What made Michael Thevis’ seem all the more convincing, was when he booked eight pages of advertising in Billboard’s Atlanta special.
To most people, Michael Thevis came across as a legitimate businessman, who had big plans for the future, and for Atlanta. By then, everyone seemed to buy into Michael Thevis’ grand plan. He was the local boy who had made good. It was a case of hail the conquering hero.
Incredibly, though, nobody seemed to be paying close attention to the numbers. None of Michael Thevis’ record companies were particularly successful. They were neither consistently releasing hit singles, nor successful albums. So where was all the income coming from? Was it the publishing company, recording studio, booking company or film company? Nobody it seemed, was in a hurry to find out. Given Michael Thevis past and his reputation for violence, maybe that wasn’t surprising?
Originally, Michael Thevis’ film company financed legitimate films. This included the Zhui Ming Qiang in 1973, and Seizure, one of Oliver Stone’s earliest films. It was released in 1974. A year later, Michael Thevis had gone up in the world, and released Poor Pretty Eddy 1975. Every film was bringing greater riches Michael Thevis’ way. However, although Michael Thevis was trying to build a legitimate business empire, he had reverted to type.
The film company he had acquired began producing pornographic films. If any journalist had even looked into activities of Michael Thevis’ empire, it could’ve come tumbling down. This looked unlikely in early 1975.
Country singer Sammy Johns had been signed to GRC for a couple of years. In early 1973, Sammy Johns released Chevvy Van as a single. It was reported to have sold over three million copies. Given that a GRC artist had just enjoyed such a successful single, surely the label’s finances would be on a sound footing as 1975 progressed?
While most people would’ve thought so, the truth was that many of GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records’ releases weren’t particularly successful, and hadn’t sold in vast quantities. That was despite the labels having impressive roster an impressive roster of artists. This included Dorothy Norwood, John Edwards, Judy Green, Joe Hinton, Jimmy Lewis, Jean Battle, Bill Brandon, Floyd Smith, Sam Dees and Loleatta Holloway. The roster was like a who’s who of Southern Soul, and GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records should’ve been among the most successful labels in the South. Instead, the losses were mounting up. Michael Thevis’ record companies weren’t particularly successful. However, they had their uses though.
Running a regional record companies offered Michael Thevis an opportunity and facility to launder dirty money. He could’ve used dirty money to buy his own companies’ releases. These phantom record sales would only exist on paper, and would have the effect of laundering the dirty money through the company’s accounts. Once the money was in the record company’s accounts, tax could be paid on the profit that had been made. This would further legitimise any dirty money the company was making. Especially, as the FBI were still watching Michael Thevis.
GRC and the rest of Michael Thevis’ musical empire all came crashing down in late 1975. Michael Thevis’ attempt to build a legitimate business empire had failed. Soon, it emerged that Michael Thevis’ musical empire was always doomed to failure. It had been for three years, ever since the FBI starting investigating his business activities.
That was when Roger Dean Underhill was involved in a routine traffic stop. An eagle-eyed traffic officer noticed a small cache of stolen guns under the passenger seat. This resulted in Roger Dean Underhill being arrested. Rather than face the consequences, Roger Dean Underhill decided to inform upon his business partner, Michael Thevis.
This lead to the start of a three year investigation that resulted, in the arrest and subsequent conviction of Michael Thevis. For all the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records, this was the beginning of the end.
All the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records were left high and dry. It was disaster for all the artists affected by the collapse. They were left without a label and some of the artists were also owed royalties, which in some cases, was a significant sum of money. For the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records they had no idea what the future held for them.
It was a similar case for Michael Thevis’ whose grand plans were left in tatters. It looked like the beginning of the end for GRC, the company he had spent three years building.
It wasn’t the end of GRC. Michael Thevis’ wife Veld and son Michael Jr, took over the running of GRC. For a while, it was business as usual for GRC. However, for Michael Thevis things were about to get much worse.
He was convicted of conspiracy to commit arson, and distribution of obscene materials. The man who sparked the three year investigation into Michael Thevis, even testified in court. Roger Dean Underhill took to the stand, and the FBI’s informant testified against his former business partner. He thought this was the right thing to do.
I was a decision Roger Dean Underhill would later live to regret. In 1978, Michael Thevis managed to escape from prison. Straight away, he was placed on the FBI’s top ten most wanted list. By then, Michael Thevis and some of his ‘associates’ had placed an open contract on Roger Dean Underhill.
When the hit came, the shooter was none other than Michael Thevis. He shot and killed Roger Dean Underhill and one of his associates. Not long after the murders, Michael Thevis was arrested and taken to a high security facility. The Scarface of Porn was the convicted of the two murders. Over thirty years later, and Michael Thevis is still serving his sentence, and parole looks unlikely for the man who founded the GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records.
The Rise and Demise Of A Musical Empire.
The Blue Nile-Contrarian Yet Perfection Personified.
Enigmatic, reluctant and contrarian are words that best of describe The Blue Nile. They’re the complete opposite of most bands. The Blue Nile have been described as publicity shy. That’ is an understatement. Ever since Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and Paul Joseph Moore formed the Blue Nile, they’ve been one of the most low-profile bands in musical history. It seems that when they were formed thirty-five years ago, The Blue Nile ticked the “no publicity” box. This has proved a double-edged sword, and resulted in The Blue Nile becoming one of the most enigmatic groups ever. Their story began thirty-five years ago.
The Blue Nile were formed in 1981, when two friends Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell, met Paul Joseph Moore, all of whom met at Glasgow University. Before forming The Blue Nile, Buchanan and Bell were previously members of a band called Night By Night. Try as they may, a recording contract eluded them. Night By Night’s music wasn’t deemed commercial enough. So Paul, Robert and P.J. decided to form a new band, The Blue Nile.
Once The Blue Nile were formed, they set up their own record label Peppermint Records. It was on Peppermint Records that The Blue Nile released their debut single, I Love This Life. This single was then picked up and rereleased on the RSO label. Unfortunately for the Blue Nile, RSO became part of the Polygram label and I Love This Life disappeared without trace. Despite this setback, Blue Nile persisted.
Still, The Blue Nile kept writing and recording material after the merger of RSO with Polygram. Some of that material would later be found on A Walk Across the Rooftops. That was in the future.
Recording of The Blue Nile’s demos took place at Castlesound studio near Edinburgh. That’s home to the man whose often referred to as the fourth member of The Blue Nile, recording engineer Calum Malcolm. He was listening to recently recorded demos through the studio’s Linn Electronics system. It had recently had a new set of speakers fitted. So the company founder, Ivor Tiefenbrun, decided to visit Calum Malcolm to hear his thoughts on the speakers. That’s when Ivor Tiefenbrun first heard The Blue Nile.
Calum Malcolm played Ivor Tiefenbrun a demo of Tinseltown In The Rain. Straight away, the founder of Linn was hooked. He decided to offer The Blue Nile a record contract to the label he was in the process of founding. Most bands would’ve jumped at the opportunity. Not The Blue Nile.
It took The Blue Nile nine months before they replied to Ivor Tiefenbrun’s offer. When they did, the answer was yes. The Blue Nile’s debut album A Walk Across The Rooftops would be released on Ivor Tiefenbrun’s new label Linn Reords.
A Walk Across the Rooftops.
Linn Records and The Blue Nile seemed a marriage made in musical heaven. Linn Records weren’t like a major label, pressurising The Blue Nile into making a decision and delivering an album within a certain timeframe. Instead, Linn Records allowed The Blue Nile to do what they did best, make music. From the outside, this looked as if it was working, and working well.
Years later, Paul Buchanan commented that during Linn Records didn’t operate like a record label. Mind you, he conceded that, during this period, The Blue Nile didn’t operate as a band. However, eventually, in May 1984 The Blue Nile’s debut album was released on Linn Records.
On the release of A Walk Across the Rooftops, it was released to critical acclaim. Critics described the album as a minor classic. A Walk Across the Rooftops was described as atmospheric, ethereal, evocative, soulful and soul-baring. It also featured the vocals of troubled troubadour Paul Buchanan. Despite the critical acclaim A Walk Across the Rooftops enjoyed, it wasn’t a huge commercial success, reaching just number eighty in the UK. However, since the A Walk Across the Rooftops has been recognised as a classic album. So has the followup Hats.
Unlike most bands, The Blue Nile weren’t in any rush to release their sophomore album Hats. There was a five year gap between A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats. It was worth the wait. The Blue Nile had done it again. Hats was a classic.
Featuring seven tracks, written by Paul Buchanan, Glasgow’s answer to Frank Sinatra He’s a tortured troubadour, whose voice sounds as if he’s lived a thousand lives. Producing Hats was a group effort, with Paul, Robert and P.J. taking charge of production duties. Guiding them, was Callum Malcolm. On the release of Hats, British and American audiences proved more discerning and appreciative of the Blue Nile’s sophomore album Hats.
On the release of Hats in the UK in 1989, it was critically acclaimed and commercial success, reaching number twelve in the UK. Then when it was released in America in 1990, audiences seemed to “get” Hats. Not only did it reach number 108 in the US Billboard 200 Charts, but The Downtown Lights reached number ten in the US Modern Rock Tracks charts. It seemed that The Blue Nile were more popular in America, than in Britain. Gradually, The Blue Nile’s music was beginning to find a wider and more appreciative album. Especially when The Blue Nile decided to embark upon their debut tour later in 1989.
Although The Blue Nile were formed in 1981, and Hats was The Blue Nile’s sophomore album, the band had never toured. Partly, The Blue Nile seemed worried about replicating the sound of their first two albums. They needn’t have worried, with The Blue Nile seamlessly replicating the sonic perfection of A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats on the sold out tour. The Blue Nile’s star was in the ascendancy.
Their first ever tour had been a huge success. The Blue Nile had conquered Britain. However, The Blue Nile had also made a breakthrough in America. Hats had sold well, and their American tour had been successful. Most bands would’ve been keen to build on this and released another album before long. Not The Blue Nile.
Seven long years passed, where Blue Nile fans wondered what had become of Glasgow’s most enigmatic trio. However, they’d been busy. After Hats found its way onto American radio stations, The Blue Nile, who previously, had been one of music’s best kept secrets, were heard by a number of prestigious musicians. Among them were Robbie Robertson and Annie Lennox, Michael McDonald. After a decade struggling to get their music heard, The Blue Nile were big news. During this period, America would become like a second home to The Blue Nile, especially Paul.
Paul took to life in America, and in 1991, decided to make it his home. This just so happened to coincide with Paul’s relationship with actress Rosanna Arquette between 1991 and 1993. Hollywood starlets and Sunset Boulevard was a long way from Glasgow’s West End. In the midst of Paul’s relationship, disaster struck for The Blue Nile, they were dropped by their label.
Linn Records and Virgin decided to drop The Blue Nile. For some groups this would’ve been a disaster. Not for The Blue Nile.
They signed a million Dollar deal with Warner Bros. While this sounded like the ideal solution for The Blue Nile, Paul made the deal without telling P.J and Robert. He later explained that “none of the others were in town at the time.” With a new contract signed, The Blue Nile began thinking about their third album, Peace At Last.
Peace At Last.
So the band started looking for the perfect location to record their third album. They travelled across Europe looking for the right location. This location had to be private and suit their portable recording studio. Cities were suggested, considered and rejected. Among them, were Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Venice. Being The Blue Nile, things were never simple. Eventually, after much contemplation The Blue Nile ended up recording what became Peace At Last in three locations, Paris, Dublin and Los Angeles. For the first time, The Blue Nile recorded an album outside of their native Scotland.
For their first album for a major label, things began to change for The Blue Nile. They brought onboard drummer Nigel Thomas, a string section and a gospel choir. Peace At Last was going to be a quite different album to A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats. However, one things stayed the same, The Blue Nile continued to work with Calum Malcolm. With his help, Peace At Last was ready for release in June 1996. Before that, critics had their say.
Critics remarked upon the change of sound on Peace At Last. It had a much more understated, restrained sound. Acoustic guitars and piano play important parts. Still, The Blue Nile’s beloved synths remain. Occasionally, The Blue Nile add strings. There’s even a gospel choir on Happiness. Gone was the sound of A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats. Peace At Last showed a different side to The Blue Nile and their music, one that divided the opinion of critics and fans. Paul, Robert and P.J. were back, but it was a different sound. One constant was Paul’s worldweary vocal. Glasgow’s very own Frank Sinatra, Paul Buchanan plays the role of the troubled troubadour, to a tee on songs about love, love lost, betrayal, heartbreak, growing up and growling old. Paul was still the tortured soul, who wore his heart on his sleeve on Peace At Last.
On the release of Peace At Last, in June 1996, it reached just number thirteen and sold poorly. For The Blue Nile this was disappointing, given it was their major label debut. Worse was to come when the lead single Happiness failed to chart. The Blue Nile’s major label debut hadn’t gone to plan. Alas, Peace At Last was the only album The Blue Nile released on a major label.
Following Peace At Last, it was eight years before The Blue Nile released another album. High was released in 2004. During the last eight years, the three members of The Blue Nile had been leading separate lives. While P.J. and Robert were content with their lives in the West End of Glasgow, while Paul had been spending his time between Glasgow and Hollywood. Now they were back and ready to record their fourth album, High.
Once High was recorded, all that was left was for The Blue Nile to find a label to release the album. The Blue Nile had been dropped by Warner Bros. So with the completed album, The Blue Nile shopped High to various labels. Eventually, they settled on Sanctuary, which would release High in August 2004. However, before that, critics welcomed back The Blue Nille.
Eight years after the release of Peace At Last, critics remarked that High was a much more grownup album. Songs of family life and heartbreak sat side-by-side. Paul who had been suffering with illness and fatigue, seemed to have found a new lease of life. His lyrics are emotional, observational, cinematic and rich in imagery. They’re also poignant, and full hope, hurt and anguish. Meanwhile, Paul’s vocals were worldweary and knowing, while the music is emotive, ethereal and evocative. Critics love High. So did music lovers.
When High in August 2004, the album reached number ten in the UK. High proved to be The Blue Nile most successful album. This proved to be fitting.
High was The Blue Nile’s swan-song. Nobody realised this when the album was released. It was only as years passed without a followup to High, that the reality sunk. There would be no more music from The Blue Nile. One of the greatest bands of their generation were now part of musical history.
Following High, critics thought that The Blue Nile would return, possibly after another lengthy break. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. The Blue Nile were no more. At least they did things their way. Right up until the release of High, The Blue Nile were enigmatic, almost reclusive and publicity shy. Mind you, The Blue Nile weren’t exactly your normal band.
The rock ’n’ roll lifestyle favoured by other bands wasn’t for The Blue Nile. Their music was much more cerebral, and had a substance that much of the music recorded between 1984 and 2004 lacked. During that twenty year period, The Blue Nile only recorded four albums. These albums are unique. Musical fashions and fads didn’t affect The Blue Nile. Their attitude was almost contrarian. Albums were recorded slowly and methodically as the Blue Nile strived for musical perfection.
Many have tried to achieve perfection. However, very few have come as close as The Blue Nile. Their debut album A Walk Across The Rooftops and the followup Hats, are nowadays both regarded as classic albums. Peace At Last and High show another side to The Blue Nile. There’s a much more grownup sound, to the albums. However, just like A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats, both albums showcase one of the most talented bands in Scottish musical history, The Blue Nile.
While The Blue Nile never enjoyed the commercial success their music deserved, they stayed true to themselves. They never jumped onto a musical bandwagon in pursuit of fame, fortune or starlets. Quite the opposite. For The Blue Nile it was their way or no way. If an album took years to record, so be it. It was always worth the wait. After all, not many bands pursue perfection, and achieve that perfection four times. The Blue Nile did, and ended their career on a High.
The Blue Nile-Contrarian Yet Perfection Personified.
John Miles-Music and Beyond.
Forty years ago in 1976, John Miles released his most successful single Music. Since then, every time John Miles’ name comes up in conversation, Music is mentioned. That must be frustrating for the English singer-songwriter. That must be frustrating for John Miles, who released ten albums between 1976 and 1999. This is a reminder that there’s much more to John Miles than Music. That’s what John Miles has spent over forty years making.
John Miles was born in Jarrow, in County Durham, England on 23rd April 1949. Growing up, music played a big part in John Miles’ life. While still at Jarrow Grammar School, John joined a local band, The Influence.
Three of the members of The Influence were keyboardist John Miles, drummer Paul Thompson and guitarist Vic Malcolm. Incredibly, they all went on to become successful musicians. Paul Thompson became Roxy Music drummer, while Vic Malcolm became Geordie’s lead guitarist. That was still to come.
In 1969, The Influence released a single on Orange Records, I Want To Live. This was just the start of what would be a long, and eventually successful recording career. Not with The Influence though.They disbanded not long after the release of I Want To Live.
Following his spell with The Influence, John Miles founded The John Miles Set, which featured bassist Bob Marshall. He and John would later form a successful songwriting partnership. That was in the future. Before that, The John Miles Set began to play the club circuit. However, in 1970, John decided to combine a solo career with playing with The John Miles Set.
This was a big step for John Miles. He was still only twenty-one. Already though, people were taking notice of John Miles. This included the owners of Orange Records who had released The Influence’s single. They released Why Don’t You Love Me?, John’s debut solo single in September 1970. While it failed commercially, John was attracting the attention of Decca Records.
They offered John Miles a recording deal for one single. It was akin to an audition, and also allowed Decca Records to test the waters. Josie was released on 7th July 1971. Alas, the single failed to trouble the charts and John was soon looking for a new record company.
Fortunately, Orange Records had just changed hands, and new owner Cliff Cooper was looking to add new artists to his roster. John Miles fitted the bill. Orange Records sent John into the studio, and he recorded Come Away Melinda. It was released as a single in February 1972. Just over a month later, Yesterday (Was Just The Beginning) was released in March 1972. Despite neither single sold in vast quantities, Orange Records kept their faith in John Miles.
Meanwhile, The John Miles Set featured on the British talent show Opportunity Knocks. They won their heat, and found themselves in the All Winner’s Show. For John Miles, this was a boost to his solo carer.
An even bigger boost to John Miles solo career during 1972, was getting the opportunity to support Roy Orbison at the Royal Albert Hall, in London. Gradually, people were beginning to know the name John Miles.
Orange Records continued to keep faith in John Miles. He released a trio of singles during 2013. This included Hard Road in March 1973, Jacqueline in May 1973 and One Minute Every Hour in August 1973. Still, though, commercial success eluded John Miles.
It was a similar story in 1974. Fright Of My Life was released in January 1974, but failed commercially. That was all that was heard of John Miles until he released What’s On Your Mind in November 1974. While it didn’t trouble the charts, John was improving as a singer and songwriter. His songwriting partnership with Bob Marshall was beginning to bear fruit. Similarly, over the last three years John’s band, which featured bassist Bob Marshall and drummer Barry Black, John Miles had matured and evolved into a tight, talented band. Maybe John’s luck would begin to change?
That was the case in 1975. As the year progressed, record companies began to take an interest in John Miles. Both EMI and Decca Records were vying for John’s signature. This was a huge decision for the twenty-six year old. Eventually, though, John decided that Decca Records who were looking to add to their contemporary pop roster, offered more of an opportunity.
By then, Decca Records’ pop roster had become stale, with Tom Jones and Englebert Humpererdinck looking like yesterday’s men. Decca Records was desperately seeking a transfusion of new talent. That was where John Miles came in. He was seen as part of Decca Records’ future. So, after opening for The Ohio Players at the Hammersmith Odeon, John and representative of Decca Records signed a recording contract.
With John Miles signed to Decca Records, the label decided to pair their latest signing, with one of Britain’s top producers, Alan Parsons. He had worked with Pink Floyd on their Magnus Opus, Dark Side Of The Moon in 1973. Since then, he had worked with some of the biggest names in music. So it was a something of a coup that he agreed to produce John Miles new single.
The song they chose Highfly, which in Alan Parsons’ hands, took on an art rock sound. It was released on September 1975, and eventually, reached seventeen in the UK charts and sixty-eight in the US Billboard 200. Exactly five years after he released his debut solo single, John Miles had his first hit single.
After the success of Highfly, John Miles would complete recording of his debut album. It featured nine songs, including six penned by John and Bob Marshall. The exceptions were Music, Lady of My Life and Music (Reprise) which John wrote. They were recorded at Abbey Road Studios.
During November and December John Miles and his band headed to Abbey Road Studios in November 1975. Drummer and percussionist Barry Black and bassist Bob Marshall accompanied John. He added lead vocals, and played keyboards, guitar and synths. Andrew Powell took charge of the orchestral arrangements and Alan Parsons produced, what would become Rebel.
As 1975 gave way to 1976, Decca Records began to think about what should be the lead single from Rebel. The song they chose was Music, a near six minute epic. It was released in March 1976 and reached the upper reaches of the charts across Europe. Music reached number three in the UK; number four in Holland; number number one in Switzerland and eighty-eight in the US Billboard 100. Later, Music won John Miles an Ivor Novello award for Best Middle-Of-The-Road Song. Before that, Rebel was released.
Critical acclaim accompanied the release of Rebel, which was hailed as an album of carefully crafted pop songs. Music may have been the standout track, but there was much more to the album, including the John Miles and Bob Marshall penned You Have it All, When You Lose Someone So Young and Lady Of My. They had matured into a talented songwriting team, while John brought each of the songs to life. It was no surprise that when Rebel was released later in March 1976, it reached number nine in the UK and 171 in the US Billboard 200. Elsewhere, Rebel reached the top twenty in Holland and Germany, and the top thirty in Sweden. For John this the perfect way to begin The Decca Years.
After the release of Rebel, John Miles embarked upon a lengthy tour. It marked the debut of Australian keyboardist Gary Moberley. John had brought him onboard to augment the band’s sound. He would make his recording debut in the summer of 1976, when Stranger In The City was recorded.
Stranger In The City.
During the summer of 1976, John Miles was touring, supporting both Jethro Tull and the Rolling Stones. Despite what was a gruelling touring schedule, John Miles still found time to begin work on his sophomore album, Stranger In The City.
This time around, the eight of the nine songs on Stranger In The City were penned by John Miles and and Bob Marshall. The exception was Barry Black penned Do It Anyway. Recording of Stranger In The City began in the summer of 1976.
Despite the success of Rebel, Alan Parsons didn’t return to produce Stranger In The City. Instead, singer-songwriter Rupert Holmes took charge of producing John Miles’ newly expanded band. Recording took place at Mediasound in New York and Utopia Studios in London. That was where the newly expanded lineup of the band got to work.
Drummer Barry Black and bassist Bob Marshall were joined by keyboardist Gary Moberley. John added lead vocals, and played piano and guitar. However, the album wasn’t completed during the summer of 1976. So John and his band returned in October 1976, before heading off on their European tour.
In January 1977, Manhattan Skyline was released as the lead single from Stranger In The City. It failed to chart on either side of the Atlantic. For John Miles and everyone at Decca Records, this was a worrying time. However, in February 1977, Stranger In The City was released.
Reviews of Stranger In The City had been mostly positive. The occasional critic wasn’t convinced that Stranger In The City was as cohesive an album as Rebel. It was a much more eclectic album, with everything from pop to blue eyed soul, funk, rock and soul. Slow Down even married rock and funk with disco. Now that critics had cast their vote on Stranger In The City, the album was released.
When Stranger In The City in February 1977, the album reached just thirty-seven in the UK. However, in America, Stranger In The City proved much more popular, reaching ninety-three in the US Billboard 200. Elsewhere, the album reached the top twenty in Norway and Sweden. That, however, wasn’t the end of the commercial success.
Slow Down was released as a single in May 1977. It reached number ten in the UK and thirty-four in the US Billboard 200. Given its dance-floor friendly sound, Slow Down gave John Miles a hit in the US Dance Music charts, when it reached number two. The John Miles’ success story continued apace.
Clive Davis at Arista Records was watching events unfold. He had an unrivalled reputation as a talent spotter, and wanted John Miles on Arista Records’ roster. This he soon discovered, would come at a price. That price was in the region of $500,000. Undeterred, Clive Davis wrote the cheque, and John Miles was now signed to Arista Records in America. Back home in Britain, The Decca Years continued.
Following the release of Stranger In The City, John Miles spent much 1977 touring the album. Then in October 1977, John began to record his much-anticipated third album, Zaragon.
For Zaragon, the John Miles and Bob Marshall songwriting team wrote seven new songs. This included the eight minute epic Plain Jane, and the three part suite Nice Man Jack. These seven songs were recorded by John’s original band with Rupert Holmes again taking charge of production.
When recording began in October 1977, there was no sign of keyboardist Gary Moberley. He had left the band. This left just drummer Barry Black and bassist Bob Marshall. John added lead vocals, and played keyboards, synths and guitar. This time, it was decided that there should be no orchestral arrangements.
John Miles wanted to be able to replicate the songs live. Just like many progressive rock groups, including Emerson, Lake and Palmer, John had discovered the more complicated the arrangement, the harder it is to replicate live. It seemed John had learned his lesson after two years of trying to replicate the arrangements on Rebel and Stranger In The City. That may not have been the only reason.
Music was changing, with punk, post punk and disco among the most popular musical genres So were people’s opinions on orchestral arrangements. Many critics and record industry insiders thought that albums with orchestral arrangements were yesterday’s sound. For John Miles, he was moving towards rock epics, like Overture, which lasted nine minutes. Keyboards and synths were to the fore, and replaced the lush, orchestral arrangements of previous albums. Over the course of three months, John Miles had reinvented himself. The reinvention of John Miles was complete in December 1977, when Zaragon was handed over to Decca Records.
With Zaragon complete, John Miles was preparing for his next tour. He felt he needed another keyboardist to augment the band. The man he turned to was Brian Chatton, who would head out on tour with John Miles in March 1978. Before that, the lead single from Zaragon was released.
No Hard Feelings, a beautiful piano based was chosen. It was released in late February 1978, but failed to chart. This didn’t bode well for the release of Zaragon.
At least Zaragon was well received by most critics. This mixture of the occasional ballad and rock epics proved to be a popular and potent combination. Especially songs like Overture, I Have Never Been in Love Before, No Hard Feelings and Zaragon. They were among the highlights of Zaragon, which was released in March 1978.
Zaragon was released in UK on Decca Records, and reached forty-three. This was regarded as a success given how music had changed over the last year or so. Elsewhere, Zaragon reached number three in Norway and Sweden. John had built up a loyal following after years of constantly touring Europe. One place where John wanted his commercial success to continue was America.
In America, Zaragon was John Miles’ debut for Arista Records. John was hoping that Zaragon would get his career with Arista Records to a successful start. Especially since Clive Davis had spent $500,000 it took to buy John Miles out of his American recording contract. The pressure was on and John wanted to justify the $500,000 price tag.
Alas, John was out of luck, and Zaragon reached just 210 in the US Billboard 200. It was John’s first album not to chart in America. For John this was a bitter blow. All was not lost though.
Maybe though, a performance on British television and radio would help sales of Zaragon?
BBC In Concert (March 1978).
Back home in Britain, one of the BBC’s most popular music shows on television and radio was Sight and Sound In Concert. It allowed an artist to be heard by a vast audience. Many of them had a voracious appetite when it came to buying albums. A good performance on Sight and Sound In Concert, would given Zaragon and the rest of John Miles’ back-catalogue.
So on 11th March 1978, John Miles and his band headed to Queen Margaret’s College, London. Drummer Barry Black and bassist Bob Marshall were joined by keyboardist Brian Chatton. Lead by John, they worked their way through a ten song set.
Opening with Nice Man Jack from Zaragon, John Miles returned to Stranger In The City, for Music Man. Then it was a return to Zaragon, for Plain Jane, Overture, Zaragon and No Hard Feelings. Having showcased Zaragon, John returned to his sophomore album Stranger In The City. Stand Up (and Give Me A Reason gave way to Stranger In The City. With just two songs to go, John returned to Zaragon and played Borderline, before closing the show with Slow Down from Stranger In The City. One song was missing, from what had been another accomplished and polished performance from John…Music. What John would given for another song like Music, for his fourth album for Decca Records, MMPH-More Miles Per Hour.
MMPH-More Miles Per Hour.
John Miles’ decision to eschew orchestral arrangements on Zaragon had backfired. It was time to rethink his future musical direction. Maybe it was time for John to return to what had become his trademark sound. That wasn’t the other decision that he would have to make; did Rupert Holmes have a future as John’s producer.
Rupert Holmes had neither built on, nor replicated the success of the Alan Parsons’ produced Rebel. Maybe he should’ve cautioned John Miles about changing direction on Zaragon? What was clear, that neither Stranger In The City nor Zaragon, replicated the quality nor commercial success of Rebel. So a decision was made to bring Alan Parsons back to produce MMPH-More Miles Per Hour.
With Alan Parson back onboard, Andrew Powell returned to take charge of the orchestral arrangements on MMPH-More Miles Per Hour. It comprised eight songs penned by John Miles and Bob Marshall. Recording began in November 1978, at Super Bear Studios, near Nice, in France. That was where John Miles and his band began work. It featured drummer Barry Black and bassist Bob Marshall were joined by keyboardist Brian Chatton. The recording of MMPH-More Miles Per Hour was completed at Union Studios, in Munich, Germany. January 1979. Now John’s thought’s turned to the release of his fourth album.
Just three months later, MMPH-More Miles Per Hour was released in April 1979. Mostly, it was to critical acclaim. MMPH-More Miles Per Hour was a much more cohesive and focused album, which featured carefully crafted songs. They had been sweetened by Andrew Powell’s orchestral arrangements, and definitely benefited from Alan Parsons’ guiding hand. He seemed to able to get the best out of John Miles. Maybe this would result in a change in fortune for John?
Can’t Keep a Good Man Down was released as the lead single from More Miles Per Hour, but failed to chart. When MMPH-More Miles Per Hour was released, it stalled at forty-six in the UK, and failed to enter the US Billboard 200. A small crumb of comfort was that MMPH-More Miles Per Hour reached number six in Norway and ten in Sweden. That was as good as it got.
Neither of the other two singles from MMPH-More Miles Per Hour, Oh Dear, nor (Don’t Give me Your) Sympathy charted. For John Miles, it must have been a frustrating way to end The Decca Years. MMPH-More Miles Per Hour. like all of John’s Decca Records’ albums, deserved to fare better.
After More Miles Per Hour, John Miles parted company with Decca Records. After just four years and four albums, The Decca Years were over. Little did John Miles realise that they would be the most successful and productive period of John Miles’ career. Never again did he reach the same heights. That’s despite releasing another six studio albums.
The first of these albums was Sympathy in 1980. By then, John Miles was still under contract to Arista in North America. Clive Davis the founder of Arista, had spent $50o,000 buying out John’s contract from Decca Records 1977. Zaragon in 1978, was the first of John Miles’ albums to be released by Arista in North America. However, the followup to Zaragon, MMPH-More Miles Per Hour hadn’t been released in North America. Instead, Sympathy became the followup.
For John Miles’ new North American album, eight songs were chosen. This included five songs from MMPH-More Miles Per Hour, including It’s Not Called Angel, We All Fall Down, C’est La Vie, Can’t Keep A Good Man Down and Fella In The Cellar. They were joined by three new songs penned by John Miles and Bob Marshall, Where Would I Be Without You, Sympathy and Do It All Again. These three new songs were recorded by John’s band, and a new producer.
When MMPH-More Miles Per Hour had been recorded, it was produced by Alan Parsons. His services were constantly in demand as a producer. So with Alan Parsons unavailable, producer Gary Lyons was drafted in. He and John Miles and his band began work. It featured drummer Barry Black and bassist Bob Marshall were joined by keyboardist Brian Chatton. John Miles played keyboards, guitar and added vocals. Once the session was complete, Sympathy was scheduled for release later in 1980.
Before that, critics had their say on Sympathy. Mostly, the reviews were positive. Despite this, Sympathy failed to chart in America. It was a case of so near, yet so far, when Sympathy reached just 202 in the US Billboard 200. This hastened John Miles’ departure from Arista.
After the end of Arista years, the next few years found John Miles move from label to label, in search of commercial success and critical acclaim. This began at EMI, where John Miles released Miles High.
For John Miles, signing to EMI was a fresh start. He hadn’t released an album in Britain since MMPH-More Miles Per Hour in 1979. 1980 had been spent fulfilling his contractual obligations to Arista. This meant John hadn’t released an album in Britain and Europe since MMPH-More Miles Per Hour in 1979. Now that John had fulfilled his contractual obligations to Arista, he could begin work on his fifth solo album.
John Miles and Bob Marhshall began writing what would become Miles High. They wrote eleven new songs. These song were recorded at Pye Studios, London, during May 1981.
When the recording session began, John Miles’s band featured drummer Barry Black, bassist Bob Marshall and keyboardist Brian Chatton. John Miles played keyboards, guitar and added vocals. He also took on a new role, that of producer. Miles High was the first album John would produce. Some may have seen this as a gamble. However, John had worked with some top producers, including Alan Parsons, so must have felt qualified to produce Miles High. Critics and record buyers would have the final say.
Reviews of Miles High were mixed. What most critics recognised, was that John Miles was a talented singer-songwriter. Some critics praised Miles High, where pop, R&B and rock were combined with jazz and reggae. Seamlessly, John Miles and his band switched between genres. They came into their own on the ballads Foolin’ and Peaceful Waters. However, other critics weren’t won over by Miles High, feeling the album was “bland” and unfocussed. What however, would record buyers think?
When Miles High was released in August 1981, John Miles was sent on a thirteen date UK tour. Alas, this didn’t help sales of Miles High, It stalled at just ninety-six in the UK. This was the last John Miles album that charted in the UK and twenty-eight in Sweden. Two singles were released from John Miles, but neither Turn Yourself Loose, nor Reggae Man charted. For John Miles this was a huge disappointment. EMI kept faith with their latest signing.
So much so, that EMI promised John Miles that a top producer would be employed to produce Play On. Eventually, EMI settled on Gus Dudgeon, who had been working with Chris Rea, Elton John and Elkie Brooks. However, the addition of Gus Dudgeon wasn’t the only change that was made during the recording of Play On in 1983.
While Bob Marshall cowrote the ten songs on Play On with John Miles, that was his only role in the album. John’s usual band were replaced by session musicians. This must have been a huge blow for musicians who had spent the best part of ten years working with John.
Recording of Play On began at Maison Rouge studios, in London. John Miles’ ‘band’ featured John Miles included drummer Graham Jarvie, bassist Paul Westwood and guitarist Martin Jenner. Producer Gus Dudgeon ‘played’ the tambourine, while John’s role was reduced to taking charge of the vocals. This was just the latest example of EMI seeming to call the shots on Play.
EMI had chosen the producer, and were even dictating the direction that John Miles’ career would head in. This was ironic, as one of the songs John and Bob Marshall had written for Play On, was The Right to Sing. It was about record companies wanting to decide which songs artists recorded and released. The Right to Sing become the lead single from Play On, but reached just eighty-eight in the UK charts. It was John’s last single that charted. This didn’t augur well for Play On.
Just like Miles High, reviews of Play On were mixed. Some critics felt the album was an improvement on Miles High, and Gus Dudgeon’s experience resulted in a polished and accomplished album. Meanwhile, Bruce Baxter’s orchestral arrangements were the perfect backdrop for John’s vocals, as breathed life and meaning into the lyrics. However, others critics weren’t convinced, feeling that the album was too polished. Again, record buyers had a the final say.
When Play On was released in 1983, it failed to chart in the UK. The only place Play On charted, was Sweden where it stalled at twenty-eight. It was a huge disappointment for John Miles. Things didn’t improve when Song for You was then released as a single, but failed to chart. However, things were to get even worse for John Miles when after touring Play On he was dropped by EMI. The EMI years were over for John Miles.
Despite being without a record label, John Miles and Bob Marshall began to write the nine songs that would feature on Transition. Meanwhile, John’s manager began looking for a new label.
With his manager looking for a new label, John Miles and his began concentrated on playing live. They had been booked to play a show on the island of Ibiza. After the show, John met, and began taking to Phil Carson. Little did John realise that Phil Carson was an executive at Atlantic Records. When he heard than John was without a recording contract, Phil Carson signed John Miles to a new record label, Valentino. John was back and was ready to record a new album.
Having used session musicians on Play On, John Miles wanted his own band to accompany him on Transition. Alas, the only member of John’s old band that featured on Transition, was bassist Bob Marshall. He was joined by former Jethro Tull drummer and percussionist Barriemore Barlow. John Miles played guitar, keyboards and lead vocals. To produce the album, John had settled on Trevor Bradin, That had been the plan.
It turned out that Trevor Bradin had too many commitments to produce Transition. He produced two songs, Blinded and I Need Your Love, before realising that he hadn’t the time to produce Transition. Not wanting to delay the album until Trevor Bradin was free, John Miles decided the recording with engineer Pat Moran should produce Transition. He produced six tracks, with Beau Hill producing the closing track Watching On Me. With the album complete, Transition was scheduled for release later in 1985.
Before that, critics had their say on Transition. It received mostly positive reviews. There were the a few dissenting voices, but mostly, critics felt John Miles was heading in the right direction.
That proved not to be case. When Transition was released in 1985, it failed to chart. The singles faired no better, with neither Blinded nor Need Your Love coming close to troubling the charts. John Miles never released another album for Valentino, Indeed, it would be another eight years before he retuned with a new album.
John Miles never released an album for eight years. After the release of Transition in 1985, John Miles didn’t release another album until Upfront in 1993. However, John was kept busy and worked on albums with Joe Cocker and Jimmy Page. John became one of the guest vocalists on several albums by The Alan Parsons Project. Then when Tina Turner headed out on tour, she asked John to accompany her. However, eventually, John decided to record a new album.
When John Miles began work on what became Upfront, there was no sign of Bob Marshall. They cowrote seven albums, but on Upfront, John decided to write the thirteen songs himself. Then he put together a small band that would record the album what was his first album in eight year.
For the Upfront, John Miles would play guitar and add the vocals. His small band included a rhythm section of Jack Bruno and bassist Neil Stubenhaus. They were joined by keyboardist Ollie Marland. Producing the album was American mix engineer Chris Lord-Alge. Once Upfront was recorded it was released later in 1993.
After an eight year absence, John Miles returned with Upfront. It received mixed reviews from critics. Some were won over by the album, while others felt it was one of John’s weaker albums. This didn’t bode well for the release of Upfront.
When Upfront was released in 1993, it failed to chart in the UK. The only place Upfront charted, was in Switzerland, where it reached twenty-six. Two singles were released from Upfront during 1993, but neither One More Day Without Love, nor What Goes Around charted. Oh How The Years Go By was then released in 1994, but it too failed to chart. This was the last that was heard of John Miles until 1999.
Tom and Catherine.
When John Miles returned in 1999, it wasn’t with a studio album. Instead, it was with the soundtrack to a musical about the life of novelists Catherine and Tom Cookson. It had been written by playwright Tom Kelly, who had worked with John on Machine Gunners. John Miles agreed to write the soundtrack, and enlisted the help of Sara Murray.
John Miles and Sara Murray wrote a total of sixteen songs. They then went into the studio, where Sara and John shared the lead vocals. Meanwhile, John laid down all the guitar and keyboard parts. Once the sixteen songs were recorded, they became the soundtrack to Tom and Catherine.
The soundtrack to Tom and Catherine was released in 1999, by Orange Records. This proved to be the last studio album that John Miles released.
Over a twenty-three year period, John Miles had released just nine studio albums. His first four albums, including his 1976 debut album Rebel, 1977s Stranger In The City, 1978s Zaragon and 1979s MMPH-More Miles Per Hour were the best albums of John Miles’ career. They were recorded when John Miles was signed to Decca Records. That was the most productive and successful period of his career.
After his departure from Decca Records, John Miles never reached the same heights. Nor did John Miles enjoy the same commercial success. While his two albums for EMI, Miles High and Play On divided opinion, several songs showcase a truly talented singer-sonngwriter. The problem was, John Miles two EMI album lacked the cohesion of earlier albums. That wasn’t John’s fault. Especially on Play On, where EMI seemed to be calling the shots, and even paired him with session musicians. As a result, John Miles never again did he record with tight, talented band that had served him so well for five albums. This included the quartet of albums John Miles recorded during the Decca Records’ years.
It’s hard to believe that The Decca Records years began forty years ago in 1976. Since then, John Miles has recorded nine studio albums and continues to play live. He’s also regular at the Proms Concerts across Europe, where he will regularly play his classic single, Music. That’s the song that’s become synonymous with John Miles. However, his career has spanned six decades and lasted over forty years. This is a reminder that there’s much more to John Miles than Music.
John Miles-Music and Beyond.
The Life and Music Of Vashti Bunyan.
Vashti Bunyan was just twenty when she was “discovered” by Andrew Loog Oldham. This wasn’t the direction Vashti envisaged her career heading when she left her London home and headed to the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, the art school at Oxford University.
Alas, the dreaming spires of Oxford University weren’t for Vashti Bunyan. It was a familiar story. Vashti failed to turn up for classes and eventually, was expelled from the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. For Vashti Bunyan, this proved to be the start of a new chapter in her career.
With the folk boom well underway Vashti who was just eighteen, headed to New York in 1963. This was just after Bob Dylan had just released his classic album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. In New York, Vashti discovered Bob Dylan’s music. The gateway to Bob Dylan’s music was his opus, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Having immersed herself in Bob Dylan’s music, Vashti realised what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. She wanted to be a musician.
So Vashti headed home to London. It was there that she encountered Andrew Loog Oldham, The Rolling Stones’ manager. He spotted Vashti’s potential and became her manager. In June 1965, Vashti Bunyan released her debut single as Vashti.
This was no ordinary single. It was a single penned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind had originally been released by The Rolling Stones on 13th February 1964. Just sixteen months later, the Jagger-Richards’ penned Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind was released in June 1965 on Decca. For Vashti, this was an inauspicious debut. It failed to chart. Maybe her sophomore single would fare better?
It wasn’t until May 1966, that Vashti Bunyan released her sophomore single. This was Train Song. Produced by Peter Snell, Train Song was released on Columbia. Lightning struck twice. Train Song disappeared without trace. For Vashti, her nascent musical career seemed to have stalled.
For the next two years, very little was heard of Vashti. Her only appearance was on The Coldest Night of the Year, a track from Twice as Much’s sophomore album That’s All. That proved to be an ironic title, as that’s all that was heard from Vashti during that period of her career.
Although Vashti records other songs for Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate Records during this period, they were never released. Instead, the languished in the Immediate Records’ vaults, For Vashti, this must have been disappointing and disheartening. Maybe that’s why Vashti and her then partner, Robert Lewis, decided to head off on a road trip.
This was very different to Jack Kerouac’s legendary road trip in On The Road. Vashti and Robert headed off to the Hebridean Islands by horse and cart. That was where singer- songwriter Donavan, a friend of Vashti, had planned to established a commune. This trip proved to be inspirational for Vashti.
During the road trip to the Hebridean Islands, Vashti wrote the songs that featured on her 1970 debut album Just Another Diamond Day. It would be produced by Joe Boyd, who Joe met at Christmas, 1968.
It was through a mutual friend that Vashti and Joe Boyd met. When Joe saw the songs, he immediately offered Vashti the chance to record an album of her travelling songs for his Witchseason Productions. However, this didn’t happen immediately.
Just Another Diamond Day.
A year later, in 1969, Vashti returned to London to record her debut album Just Another Diamond Day, with Joe Boyd. Vashti had no band, but this didn’t matter. An all-star folk band would join Vashti in the studio to record on Another Diamond Day.
This included Dave Swarbrick and Simon Nicol from Fairport Convention. They were joined by the Incredible String Band’s Robin Williamson. The final piece of the jigsaw was string arranger, Robert Kirby. Just like Joe Boyd, Robert Kirby would go on to work with Nick Drake. Before that, they worked on Just Another Diamond Day, which was recorded at Sound Techniques Studios, in London. Just Another Diamond Day was then released in December 1970.
When Just Another Diamond Day was released in December 1970, it was well received by critics. They appreciated Vashti Bunyan’s new sound. She was now a fully fledged folk singer. This suited Vashti. Just Another Diamond Day veered between pastoral, ethereal, lush, understated, rural, melancholy, cerebral and cinematic. Sadly, when Just Another Diamond Day was released, it failed commercially. Vashti took this badly.
She retired from music after the commercial failure of Just Another Diamond Day. At first, Vashti stayed in one of The Incredible String Band’s Glen Row cottages. After that, Vashti moved to Ireland, and then settled in to Scotland. For the next thirty years, Vashti settled into family life. She had three children. As her children grew up, little did Vashti realise that somewhat belatedly, Just Another Diamond Day found the audience it so richly deserved.
Since her retirement in 1970, gradually, Another Diamond Day found the audience it deserved. It was reappraised by a new generation of music lovers and critics. Among Just Another Diamond Day’s fans, were a new generation of musicians who had been influenced by Vashti Bunyan. They realised that Just Another Diamond Day, which was reissued in 2000, was a long-lost classic. Eventually, Vashti Bunyan decided to make a welcome return to music in 2002.
This started with Vashti making guest appearances on Piano Magic’s 2002 single Writers Without Homes. Two years later, Piano Magic and Vashti collaborated on the Saint Marie E.P. This was just the start of a string of guest appearances and collaborations that Vashti made.
Vashti’s next collaboration was on Devendra Banhart’s 2004 album Rejoicing In The Hands. This was quite fitting as nowadays, Vashti is credited as the the Queen of Psych Folk and Devendra Banhart is one of her disciples. It was a case of two generations of psych folk singers collaborating. This wasn’t the last of Vashti’s collaborations.
A year later, Vashti worked with another band who were influenced by her music. This was Animal Collective. Vashti appeared on their 2005 E.P. Prospect Hunter. However, the most important release for Vashti in 2005 was her sophomore album Lookaftering.
It had been a long time coming. Thirty-five years to be precise. However, eventually, Vashti made a very welcome return to the studio. The result was her sophomore album Lookaftering.
On Lookaftering, Vashti was joined by some of the artists she had influenced. This included Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom. A familiar face was Robert Kirby, who played such an important part in Vashti’s 1970 debut album Just Another Diamond Day. He played trumpet and French horn on Lookaftering, which was released in October 2005.
Just like when Just Another Diamond Day was released December 1970, Lookaftering was released to critical acclaim. Lookaftering was released to an appreciative audience. Understated, ethereal, cerebral, beautiful and ruminative, Lookaftering was a return to form from a reflective, philosophical Vashti. Older and wiser, Vashti Bunyan had matured with age. Surely, it wouldn’t be long before Vashti released her third album?
That’s proved not to be the case. Nine years have passed since Vashti released Lookaftering, Valerie released her third album Heartleap in October 2014.
Heartleap features nine songs written by Vashti. She plays acoustic guitar and is accompanied by a small, talented band. This includes strings courtesy of Fiona Bruce, Ian Burdge and Gillian Cameron. Guitarists Garth Dickson and Andy Cabic are joined by Jo Mango on kalimba and dulcimer. Saxophonist Ian Wilson also plays recorder. Devendra Banhart, who featured on Lookaftering, makes a welcome return, adding backing vocals. These musicians played their part in the recording of Heartleap.
When Heartleap was released, critics hailed the album as a return to form from Vashti Bunyan. Thirty-five years after turning her back on music, and twelve years since she stepped back into the limelight, the Queen of Psych Folk was back, and better than ever.
Across The Water opened Heartleap, and is a mixture of ethereal beauty and melancholia. This set the scene for the pastoral beauty of Holy Smoke. Mother then features a reflective Vashti, as remembers her mother sitting playing her piano and smiling. Sadness and melancholia fill Vashti’s voice on this beautiful autobiographical song. Very different is Jellyfish, a dreamy, lysergic song. It gives way to Shell, a captivating song, where Vashti veers between storyteller and philosopher. Imagery and metaphors are omnipresent as a worldweary Vashti delivers cerebral lyrics. The Boy features moving lyrics that have a cinematic quality. So do the lyrics to Gunpowder, another reflective song, where a rueful Vashti sings of love and love lost. Blue Shed finds Vashti accompanied by a lone piano who longs to be alone. There’s a change of mood on Here, a beautiful, joyous paean, which features a whispery vocal from Vashti. Heartleap closes with the title-track, where Vashti’s breathy vocal, delivers beautiful lyrics that are akin to a stream of consciousness. This crowned Vashti Bunyan’s comeback album Heartleap, an album that could’ve and should’ve transformed her career.
Sadly, when Heartleap was released in October 2014, the album passed most people by despite its undeniable quality. Heartleap failed to find the wider audience it deserved. For Vashti who was then sixty-nine, this must have been hugely disappointing and frustrating. Especially considering the quality of music on Heartleap
Heartleap was an album that oozes quality and ethereal beauty. That’s the case from the opening bars of Across The Water, to the closing notes of Heartleap. It’s best described as dreamy, melancholy, beautiful, ethereal, haunting, cerebral and wistful. Elements of ambient, folk, jazz, freak folk and psychedelia can be heard during the ten songs on Heartleap. It’s a potent and heady brew, that features thirty-four flawless minutes of music, as Vashti Bunyan showcases her considerable talents during a career defining opus.
Incredibly, Heartleap is only Vashti Bunyan’s third album, despite her career beginning back in 1965. After the commercial failure of her debut 1970 debut album Just Another Diamond Day, Vashti turned her back on music. It was thirty-five years until we heard from Vashti Bunyan. She released Lookaftering in 2005. Many thought Vashti was back for good. However, since then, she flitted out of our lives for another nine years. Although she dabbled in music, she never released another album until Heartleap in 2014. Sadly, that looks like being Vashti Bunyan’s swan-song.
Three years after the release of Heartleap, Vashti Bunyan is now seventy-two. Her legion of loyal fans would love Vashti to return with her fourth album. However, it must be incredibly frustrating releasing albums of the quality of Just Another Diamond Day, Lookaftering and her career defining album Heartleap and watch them fail to find the audience they so richly deserve. That’s a great shame, as Vashti Bunyan has always a been hugely talented singer and songwriter.
That was the case in 1970, when she released Just Another Diamond Day, an album which was ahead of the musical curve. It was only much later that the Queen of Psych Folk’s debut album was discovered by a new generation of music lovers, critics and musicians. They flew the flag for Vashti Bunyan when she released Lookaftering and Heartleap. At last, the Queen of Psych Folk was back and was still a musical pioneer. Sadly, though, outside her loyal coterie of fans, Vashti Bunyan is largely unknown. Most people are still unaware of the trio of albums Vashti released between 1970 and 2014. Just Another Diamond Day, Lookaftering and Heartleap are best described as true hidden gems, that have yet to be discovered by the wider record buying public. Maybe, one day soon, a much wider audience will discover the musical delights of Vashti Bunyan, and no longer will the Queen of Psych Folk be referred to as one of music’s best kept secrets?
The Life and Music Of Vashti Bunyan.
Linda Perhacs-The Newly Crowned Queen Of Psychedelic Folk.
The Linda Perhacs story is a case of what might have been, for the seventy-four year singer who nowadays, is regarded as the true Queen of psychedelic folk. Linda Perhacs career began in 1970, when she released her debut album Parallelograms on Kapp Records. Sadly, Parallelograms which nowadays, is regarded as a psychedelic folk classic, failed to find the audience it deserved and Linda Perhacs turned her back on music. Nothing more was heard of her until 2014.
That was when Linda Perhacs returned with her much-anticipated sophomore album The Soul Of All Natural Things in March 2014. By then, Linda Perhacs music had started to find a wider audience amongst a new generation of musicians and record buyers. This audience grew over the next three years when Linda Perhacs returned with I’m A Harmony in September 2017. Linda Perhacs it seemed, was making up for lost time as her comeback continued.This was the latest chapter to a fascinating story which began in 1943.
Linda Long was born in Mill Valley, which lies just north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in 1943. By the time she was six or seven, Linda was able to write quite complicated compositions. She was a gifted and prodigious child. However, as is often the case with gifted children, her teachers didn’t maybe realise this. This didn’t stop Linda enrolling in the University of Southern California.
At University of Southern California, Linda majored in dental hygiene. This allowed her to work and study. Her course also allowed Linda to explore what was unfolding around her. Remember, this was the start of the counterculture explosion. San Francisco was central to this. Being around this meant Linda was exposed to a many different cultures. It was the same with art and music. For Linda, this was creatively stimulating and would change the course of her life.
Having graduated from University of Southern California, Linda began working with periodontist. During this period, Linda immersed herself in the various philosophies that were popular. Essentially, she taught her to mediate and rid herself of negative energy. This helped her and her patients. It may also have helped Linda develop as songwriter.
Away from work, Linda and her sculptor husband used to enjoy walking in the city’s public parks. It was during these walks that Linda was first inspired to write songs. This was something Linda hadn’t done since she and her husband moved to Topanga Canyon.
Indeed, Linda hadn’t written songs for a while. Throughout her University days, Linda hadn’t been involved in making music. However, she loved music. Topanga Canyon was full of artists and musicians. So, it was the perfect place for an aspiring singer-songwriter. With an environment that inspired her, and the sense of hope that was prevalent during the second half of the sixties, this marked the cultural blossoming of Linda Perhacs.
What also inspired Linda was her travels. She spent time travelling up the Big Sur coastline, right through Mendocino, the Pacific Northwest and to Alaska. This was her road rip. So was a trip to Chimacum, on the Olympic Peninsula. These journeys were what inspired Linda to write songs. Linda stresses her journeys inspired her. Drugs played no part in stimulating her creativity. Her songs come from her experiences in life.
This includes the colours, patterns and shapes that she’s seen since she was a child. Again, they’re not the result of recreational drugs. No. They’re a phenomenon that many people experience. These colours, patters and shapes inspired Linda, who soon, would be one step nearer releasing her first album.
Linda was, by now, working in the office of Beverley Hills’ periodontist. That’s where Linda met film soundtrack composer Leonard Rosenman and his wife Kay. Linda would ask them about their forthcoming projects. Then one day Leonard said to Linda “I can’t believe that clinical work is all you do?” So, Linda told them about her music and played a tape of one of her songs. These were songs she’d recorded during her travels. Leonard took the songs home to listen to them. The next day, Linda was offered a record contract.
When Linda handed Leonard the tape, she thought that Leonard was wanting to hear a glimpse of the type of music younger people were making. After all, Leonard had a lot of projects on the go. However, that didn’t stop him offering to produce Linda’s debut album. The song that made him make that offer was the Parallelograms, which would be the title-track of Linda’s debut album. Leonard referred to this track as “visual music composition.”
Leonard who’d been a composer all his life, had never been able to achieve this. Linda had. He explained that Parallelograms was different from the other tracks. Each of the component parts were interactive to the composer as three-dimensional sound. It’s akin to sculpting with ice, where the result is essentially a type of light and dance. For Linda, this was the way she’d always written. However, now Linda was going to take this one step further and record what became Parallelograms.
Parallelograms featured eleven tracks. Linda wrote ten of them. The exception was Hey, Who Really Cares? which Linda cowrote with Oliver Nelson wrote. For the recording of Parallelograms producer Leonard Rosenman brought in an all-star cast of musicians.
When recording of Parallelograms began, Leonard Rosenman and Linda were aiming to sculpt a series of soundscapes full of textures, colours and shapes. The music Linda hoped, would be “softer and ethereal.” Accompanying her were some legendary musicians. This included Shelley Mann and Milt Jackson on percussion. The rhythm section included Reinie Press on electric bass and Fender guitar and Steve Cohn on lead and 12-string guitar. John Neufield played flute and saxophone, Leonard Rosenman electronic effects and Tommy harmonica. Brian Ingoldsby was tasked with using an electrified shower hose for horn effects. Parallelograms was no ordinary album. Instead, it proved to be a truly groundbreaking album.
Before its release in 1970, critics received an advance copy of Parallelograms. The resultant reviews realised the importance of Linda Perhacs’ debut. Here was a truly talented singer, songwriter and musician. She had discovered her musical soul-mate in producer Leonard Rosenman. He was an ambitious, innovator who wanted to push musical boundaries to their limits on album that Leonard Rosenman described as “visual music composition.” Intrigued, critics investigated Parallelograms.
They discovered a beautiful, understated and enchanting album. From the opening bars of Chimacum Rain, right through to the closing notes of Delicious, Linda Perhacs breathed life, meaning, beauty and emotion into Parallelograms. It was an absolutely captivating listen; and an album where the listener was spellbound. That’s not surprising, as Parallelograms featured hopeful, captivating, ethereal and dreamy music. Parallelograms was also an ambitious and innovative album of genre-melting music.
Parallelograms was a flawless fusion of Americana, country, folk, pop, psychedelia and rock. There’s even a twist of ambient, drone pop, experimental and jazz. It was potent and heady brew; and one that should’ve launched Linda Perhacs’ career.
Sadly, when Parallelograms was released, Linda Perhacs’ psychedelic folk classic wasn’t the huge commercial success it should’ve been. This wasn’t helped by the record company’s failure to promote Parallelograms. As a result, Linda, like so many other hugely talented artists, failed to enjoy the commercial success and critical acclaim her undoubted talent deserved. So Linda returned to her job as a periodontist.
Meanwhile, music industry insiders and the those that had bought Parallelograms awaited Linda Perhacs’ sophomore album. A year passed, and there was no sign of the followup to Parallelograms. Linda was still working as a dental nurse, and had settled back into her life pre-Parallelograms. Two and three years passed, and still, there was no sign of another album from Linda. Three years became five, and five became ten. Linda had settled back into her life pre-Parallelograms. By then, fans of Linda Perhacs had all but given up hope that she would release another album.
Nothing was heard of Parallelograms until the nineties. By then, Parallelograms had become a cult classic which a new generation of record buyers had discovered. Interest in Parallelograms grew with each year. Somewhat belatedly, did people realise that Parallelograms was a seminal, lost classic and Linda Perhacs should’ve enjoyed a long and successful career. It was only later that Linda Perhacs realised what might have been.
It was only later in life that Linda Perhacs admitted that much as she loved music, she didn’t seem to have the drive required to make a career as a musician. She did, however, have the talent. Linda was blessed with an abundance of talent. That had been apparent on Parallelograms, and Linda’s long-awaited comeback album.
Having spent her career working as a dental hygienist, Linda decided to make her musical comeback. She’d spent a lifetime observing people and the world. This meant she’d a wealth of material for her not just her sophomore album, but a series of albums. However, first things first, Linda had to get round to releasing the follow to Parallelograms. This would become The Soul Of All Natural Things.
The Soul Of All Natural Things.
For The Soul Of All Natural Things, Linda wrote four tracks and cowrote the other six tracks. She penned The Soul Of All Natural Things, Intensity, Prisms of Glass and Song of the Planets. Linda and Chris Price wrote Children. They also cowrote River of God, Freely, Immunity and Song of the Planets with Fernando Perdomo. Fernando and Linda collaborated on Daybreak. These ten tracks became The Soul Of All Natural Things, which was recorded between September 2012 and April 2013.
Recording of The Soul Of All Natural Things took place at Reseda Ranch Studios, Reseda in California. The sessions took place between September 2012 and April 2013. Linda core band included Chris Price on backing vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion, programming and effects. Fernando Perdomo contributed bass, guitars, keyboards and percussion. Julia Holter and Ramona Gonzales added vocals and keyboards. Other artists featured on one or some of the tracks on The Soul Of All Natural Things. It was produced byChris Price, Fernando Perdomo and Linda. Once The Soul Of All Natural Things was completed, Linda’s long-awaited sophomore album was released in March 2014. After a forty-four year absence, Linda Perhacs was back.
By then, a new generation of critics were already familiar with the story of Linda Perhacs ‘ debut album Parallelograms. These critics penned critically acclaimed reviews, and hailed Linda Perhacs the comeback Queen.
Although forty-four years have passed since Linda Perhacs released her debut album Parallelograms, she’s picked up where she left off on The Soul of All Natural Things. Accompanied by some of the best young musicians Los Angeles has to offer, they’ve played their part in a flawless fusion of classic rock, folk, pop and psychedelia. There’s even diversions via ambient, experimental, jazz and drone pop during what’s another captivating and innovative album.
Just like on Parallelograms, Linda Perhacs proves to be a versatile vocalist. Her vocal veers between tender and breathy to elegiac, ethereal and emotive. Sometimes, there’s a fragility and sense of confusion, frustration and melancholia in Linda’s voice. Other times, her vocal becomes impassioned, hopeful and hurt-filled. The on Immunity, Linda’s vocal is louder, stronger and full of sincerity. Just like on other tracks this allows her to breathe meaning into the lyrics. Meanwhile, Linda’s accompanied by a choir of lysergic angels who add cascading harmonies, while crystalline guitars and lush strings join with the rest of Linda’s band. They play their part in the sound and success of The Soul Of All Natural Things.
The music on The Soul Of All Natural Things veers from bewitching to beautiful, to cinematic and cerebral. Other times, the music is powerful and spacious, but has an intensity. However, for much of The Soul Of All Natural Things the music is dreamy, ethereal and lysergic. That’s not unlike the album that started Linda Perhacs’ career, Parallelograms.
After the release of The Soul Of All Natural Things critics and record buyers wondered what the future held for Linda Perhacs? Would she return with a third album, and if so, when would it be ready for released? All would soon become clear this time, as Linda Perhacs kept her fans informed about the progress of her third album. The album that became I’m A Harmony was eagerly awaited by critics and fans.
I’m A Harmony.
Three-and-half years after the release of long-awaited and comeback album The Soul Of All Natural Things, Linda Perhacs was on the comeback trail again when she released album I’m A Harmony in September 2017. Recording of I’m A Harmony had been slow going, and some of Linda Perhacs’ were wondering when she and even if she was going to return with a new album?
What many of her fans didn’t realise, was that seventy-four year old Linda was still working as a dental hygienist and in her spare time, writing and recording I’m A Harmony. This was the reality of life as a musician in 2017.
When Linda began work on I’m A Harmony, she was joined by some familiar faces and also, a number of new names. Among the familiar faces were a number of well known songwriters, vocalists and producers including Fernando Perdomo, Julia Holter and Chris Price. They were joined by Pat Sansone of Wilco and The Autumn Defense who would co-produce I’m A Harmony with Fernando Perdomo and Linda Perhacs. They were joined by other songwriters, vocalists and producers who were all new names.
Among the new names who joined Linda Perhacs when work began on I’m A Harmony were Pat Sansone and John Stirratt of The Autumn Defense and Wilco; Nels Cline and Glenn Kotche of Wilco and Devendra Banhart who adds a soliloquy on We Will Live. They’re joined by John Pirrucello, James Haggerty, Leddie Garcia, Greg Wiezorek and vocalists Michelle Vidal and Durga McBroom. This all-star band would record the eleven songs that became I’m A Harmony.
Unlike her two previous albums, where Linda Perhacs wrote most or many of the songs on her own, she cowrote the eleven songs with various songwriting partners. This included Crazy Love with Pat Sansone and Wash My Soul In Sound with Mark Pritchard. Linda Perhacs wrote I’m A Harmony, Take Your Love To A Higher Level and One Full Circle Around The Sun with Fernando Perdomo, and the pair cowrote Winds Of The Sky, We Will Live and Eclipse Of All Love with Chris Price. He and Linda penned The Dancer with Julia Holter who cowrote Beautiful Play and Visions with Linda. These eleven songs would form the basis for I’m A Harmony.
Recording took place at Reseda Ranch Studios, Reseda in California and Tiny Door Studios in Nashville, with additional recording taking place at Julia Holter’s studio and The Session Rooms. This was where Linda Perhacs was joined by her band and guest artists as they began recording I’m A Harmony. It was co-produced by Linda Perhacs, Fernando Perdomo and Chris Price. They were augmented by Julia Holter on Beautiful Play, and she was joined on I’m A Harmony by was Chris Price who also does additional production work on Eclipse Of All Love. Mark Pritchard was drafted in and did additional production on You Wash My Soul In Sound. Each of these producers played their part on I’m A Harmony, which was eventually completed and scheduled for release in autumn 2017.
When I’m A Harmony was released, it received the same critical acclaim the greeted the release of The Soul of All Natural Things in March 2014. I’m A Harmony which received plaudits and praise from critics on both sides of the Atlantic saw the comeback Queen of psychedelic folk make a welcome comeback.
Three years after the release of her long-awaited and much-anticipated sophomore album The Soul of All Natural Things in March 2014, Linda Perhacs picked up where she left off on I’m A Harmony. It finds the Queen of psychedelic folk joined by a talented band who play their part in what can only be described as flawless genre-melting album where Linda Perhacs and her band combine elements of folk, pop and psychedelia. There’s also elements of ambient, avant-garde, experimental, free jazz and jazz on I’m A Harmony which Linda Perhacs co-produced with Chris Price and Fernando Perdomo.
They played their part in Linda Perhacs’ latest opus I’m A Harmony veers between ambient and atmospheric to bewitching to beautiful, to cinematic and cerebral, right through to elegiac and ethereal. Other times, the music on I’m A Harmony is melodic and memorable and other times, poignant and powerful. I’m A Harmony marks the return of the Queen of psychedelic folk with a genre classic in-waiting I’m A Harmony, which is a fitting follow to Linda Perhacs’ two previous flawless cult classics, Parallelogram and The Soul Of All Natural Things.
The three albums that Linda Perhacs has released showcase a truly prodigious singer, songwriter and musician, Linda Perhacs. She could and should’ve enjoyed a long and successful career. Alas, fate conspired against Linda Perhacs, when her debut album Parallelograms wasn’t promoted didn’t received sufficient promotion. As a result, Parallelograms failed commercially and Linda returned to her work as a dental nurse. The dream it seemed was over.
It was later in her career that Linda Perhacs reflected that maybe, she hadn’t been the most driven musician. That was a great shame, as Linda Perhacs was a hugely talented singer-songwriter. That was apparent on her debut album Parallelograms and the long-awaited and much-anticipated followup The Soul Of All Natural Things, which was released forty-four years after Parallelograms, in 2014. Three years later, and the Queen of psychedelic folk returned with her third album I’m A Harmony.
By then, a lot of water had passed under the bridge since 1970 and the release of Parallelograms, but Linda hadn’t lost her mojo. That was far from the case. Just like Parallelograms, The Soul of All Natural Things and I’m A Harmony are albums of flawless, timeless music from Linda Perhacs. They’re a reminder, if any was needed that Linda Perhacs had the talent to become one of the leading lights of the Laurel Canyon scene. Especially if Parallelograms had been released on a major label. Maybe then Linda Perhacs’ career might have been very different. However, Linda Perhacs seems to be content with her life, and it’s a case of no regrets for the Queen of psychedelic folk.
Linda Perhacs whose now seventy-four still continues to combine her life as a dental hygienist with her music career. This is very different to the life that many of her contemporaries live. They may have enjoyed long and successful careers, but Linda Perhacs has managed to release a triumvirate flawless, cult classics during what was a truncated career. These albums showcase the talents of Linda Perhacs, who is still one of music’s best kept musical secrets, who could’ve, and should’ve, enjoyed a long and successful career.
Linda Perhacs-The Newly Crowned Queen Of Psychedelic Folk.
Linda Jones-The Tragic Story Of The Lost Soul Queen.
As 1972 dawned, twenty-seven year old Linda Jones was a successful soul singer. She had already enjoyed five hit singles and her debut album had sold well. This looked like it was just the start of a long and successful career for a singer who had the potential to rival Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and Irma Thomas for the title Queen of Soul. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.
On March the 13th 1972, Linda Jones was resting at her mother’s home between a matinee and evening show at the Harlem Apollo. She took unwell and an ambulance was called. The following day, Linda slipped into a diabetic coma. Later that day, Linda Jones was pronounced dead on the 14th February 1972. Linda Jones was just twenty-seven. Tragedy had robbed soul music of his its talented and promising singers, Linda Jones.
Linda Jones was born, in New Jersey, on December 14th 1944, By the age of six, Linda Jones had joined the family gospel group The Jones Singers. They sang in churches in the New Jersey area. This was Linda’s introduction to music. However, as Linda became a teenager, she discovered another type of music…R&B.
Discovering R&B transformed Linda Jones’ life. This was a revelation. Suddenly, Linda knew what she wanted to do with her life…sing soul. So when she left high school, Linda had a plan. By days, she worked a series of dead end jobs. Then at night, she became Linda sang in local clubs in Newark, New Jersey. That was where she came to the attention of an A&R scout for MGM Records.
He spotted the potential in the nineteen year old Linda Jones. Soon, Linda was signed on a short term deal, and was net into the studio to record her debut single. The song that was chosen was a cover of Lonely Teardrops, which had given Jackie Wilson a hit single. When it was released, MGM billed Linda Jones as Linda Lane. Despite the change in name, Lonely Tears failed to make an impression on the charts. Linda’s time at MGM was over before it had even begun.
Despite the disappointment, Linda Jones remained stoic and returned to working dead end jobs by day, and singing in clubs at night. That was where she met Jerry Harris, a staff songwriter at Jobete Music, Motown’s publishing company.
Straight away, Jerry Harris realised that Linda Jones was a cut above most of the singers he came across. He promised Linda that he would do all he could to help her. Jerry Harris was as good as his word.
He introduced Linda Jones to producer George Kerr. Little did Linda realise, that this was the start of a six year partnership.
Not long after their initial meeting, George Kerr booked a session at a New York recording studio in October 1964. For the session, Jerry Harris had recorded some top session players. The rhythm section included drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, bassist Cornell Dupree and guitarist Eric Gale. They were joined by pianist Richard Tee. This was the band that would be by Linda’s side for the next six years. However, during that first session, Linda recorded the two songs that featured on her next single, Take The Boy Out Of The Country, I’m Taking Back My Love.
After the recording sessions, George Kerr shopped the tracks to various record companies. When executives at Atco, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records, heard the two songs, they were keen to sign Linda Jones. When the contract was signed, Linda Jones’ Take The Boy Out Of The Country, was released in March 1965 as Linda Jones’ sophomore single. Tucked away on the B-Side was I’m Taking Back My Love. Despite the quality of both sides, Linda’s sophomore single failed commercially. This marked the end of her time at Atco.
George Kerr wasn’t about to give up on Linda Jones. After leaving Atco, Linda returned to the club circuit. This was the equivalent of serving a musical apprenticeship. It helped Linda hone her style. Eventually, George took Linda back into the studio, and they recorded Fugitive From Love and You Hit Me Like T.N.T. These two tracks George took to Blue Bird Records.
Again, executives at Blue Bird Records liked the two tracks, and agreed to release them as Linda Jones’ third single. Linda was maturing as a vocalist, and combined power and emotion on Fugitive From Love. It became her next single when it was released on Blue Cat Records in July 1966. On the flip-side was You Hit Me Like T.N.T. Sadly, Blue Cat Records lacked the funds to promote Fugitive From Love properly. Unsurprisingly, it failed to find an audience, and Linda Jones was once again, looking for a new label.
Still though, George Kerr continued to believe in Linda Jones. Undaunted he managed to find the funds to finance another session. One of the songs he planned to record was Hypnotised. George Kerr took Linda and her band into the studio and they cut the two tracks. Then Jerry went looking for a label to release Linda’s fourth single.
First stop for George Kerr was Brunswick. However, they weren’t in the market for any more female singers. They already had Barbara Acklin, who they were promoting heavily. However, a Brunswick staffer suggested that George head over to Warner Bros, and meet Ron Moseley. He was working for Warner Bros’ R&B imprint Loma. That’s what George decided to do.
At Warner Bros, George Kerr met with Ron Moseley. He took out a copy of Hypnotised and began to play it to Ron. At that moment, Jerry Ragovoy walked past. The song stopped the songwriter and producer in his tracks. He thought it had hit potential. Within a matter of minutes, a deal had been struck. After that, George headed home to Florida.
On his return to New York, Jerry Ragovoy and staffers from Loma had been looking for Linda Jones. They wanted her to play some shows to support Hypnotised. This she did, and when Hypnotised was released in May 1967, the single began to climb the charts. Eventually, it reached twenty-one in the US Billboard 100 and number four in the US Billboard R&B charts in 1967. After four years and four singles, Linda Jones had made her breakthrough. This was just the start of the journey for Linda.
Four months later, and Linda Jones released the followup to Hypnotised was released in September 1967. The song that was chosen was the soul-baring ballad What’ve I Done (To Make You Mad). Again, the single climbed the charts, and eventually, reached sixty-one in the US Billboard 100 and number eight in the US Billboard R&B. This gave Linda Jones back-to-back top ten single in the US R&B charts.
Buoyed by this success, Loma decided to send Linda into the studio to record her debut album. Hypnotised was released later in 1967. It featured the singles Hypnotised and What’ve I Done (To Make You Mad). Other songs included the rueful If Only (We Had Met Sooner), A Last Minute Miracle reached twenty-six in the US R&B charts. By then, great things were being forecast for Linda Jones.
As 1967 drew to a close, Linda Jones released her third single of the year. This was the hopeful power ballad Give My Love A Try. It was released in December 1967. Despite its quality, Give My Love A Try failed to make an impression on the charts. However, 1967 had still been the most successful year of Linda Jones’ career.
Just two months after the released of Give My Love A Try, Linda Jones returned with her first single of 1968, My Heart Needs A Break. This Sammy Turner composition was produced by George Kerr. When it was released in February 1968, the single charted but stalled at ninety-four in the US Billboard 100. In the US R&B charts, Give My Love A Try fared better, reaching thirty-four. It seemed that Give My Love A Try’s failure to chart had been a minor blip. Or was it?
In June 1968, Linda Jones returned with a new single, What Can I Do (Without You). When it was released, it failed to trouble the chart. This Lind hoped was another minor blip and the hits would soon resume.
Three months later, and Linda Jones returned with her new single It Won’t Take Much (To Bring Me Back). When it was released in September 1968, it too, failed to chart. This was a further disappointment for Linda Jones. Worse was to come.
By 1969, Warner Bros. had realised that there was more money to made in rock than soul. Warner Bros. called time on their Loma imprint. It wasn’t part of their future plans. Nor it seemed was Linda Jones. She only released one more single for Warner Bros.
This was My Heart (Will Understand), which was released the main Warner Bros. label in April 1969. When the single failed commercially, this must have made Warner Bros’ mind up. Linda Jones left Warner Bros not long after this.
Later in 1969, George Kerr took Linda Jones back into the studio with her usual band. They recorded a cover of The O’Jays’ I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow and That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You. These songs, George Kerr shopped to various labels.
Eventually, George Kerr agreed to lease the songs to Gamble and Huff’s Neptune Records. For Linda, this in a step down in career terms. She had previously, been signed to a major label, that was one of the most famous labels in music. Now she was about to release her next single small independent label.
The only saving grace was that Neptune Records had signed a distribution deal with Chicago based Chess Records. This should’ve helped get Neptune Records’ releases into more shops than other independent labels. One of these releases was Linda Jones’ single I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow.
It was released in October 1969, with That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You on the B-Side. Upon its release, I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow entered the US R&B charts, and eventually, reached forty-five. Meanwhile, some DJs took to playing the B-Side That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You on the radio. The song became so popular, that it too charted, reaching number forty in the US R&B charts. Linda had enjoyed two hit singles. Maybe Linda’s luck was changing?
She was certainly busy with live work when I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow and That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You charted in January 1970. Linda Jones was part of package shows that toured America. At each show, Linda appeared three times, singing between three and five songs. This introduced her to a much wider audience. However, this must have been taking its toll on Linda.
She had been diagnosed with diabetes at an early age. Like all diabetics, Linda had to take medication and be careful with her diet. Linda had to eat regularly and watch her blood sugar level. Out on tour, this wasn’t always easy, and sometimes, Linda suffered from diabetes attacks. Gradually, they began to happen more often. For Linda and her mother, this must have been a worry. Despite this, the twenty-five year old continued her career.
In May 1970, Linda Jones recorded a cover of Ooh Baby You Move Me. It had previously been recorded by Ben Aitken in 1968. On the B-Side, was Can You Blame Me? Again, producer George Kerr decided to lease Ooh Baby You Move Me to Neptune Records. This wasn’t his best decision.
At the time, Gamble and Huff were planning on launching a a new label, Philadelphia International Records. Neptune Records was being wound down, so the pair could focus their attention on the new label. Maybe George Kerr wasn’t aware of these plans? As a result, Ooh Baby You Move Me wasn’t promoted properly on its release in May 1970. This proved to be the last Linda Jones record leased to Gamble and Huff.
That wasn’t the only change in the offing. Linda Jones moved to Turbo Records, which was a subsidiary of All Platinum Group, a New Jersey funk, R&B, and soul label. This was the start of a new chapter in the career of Linda Jones. However, changes were afoot.
For Linda Jones Turbo Records’ debut, Stay With Me Forever was chosen. It was penned by George Kerr with Sharon Seiger and Nate Edmonds. He would co-produce Stay With Me Forever with George Kerr. On the B-Side was I’ve Given You The Best Years Of My Life, which Linda cowrote with Gerald Harris. He co-produced the song with Toby Henry. What was Linda’s thirteenth single was released in May 1971
This was Stay With Me Forever, Linda Jones’ first single for her new label, Turbo Records. It was released in May 1971 and featured a vocal tour de force from Linda. She showcased every vocal trick in the book during what was a musical masterclass. The record buying public agreed, and the single reached forty-seven in the US R&B charts. Given the success of Stay With Me Forever work began on the followup.
The song chosen was a cover of the Goffin and King composition, I Can’t Make It Alone. It was ‘produced’ by a veteran of the New York music scene, Sylvia Robinson. She would go on to found and become the CEO of Sugar Hill Records. Meanwhile, Al Goodman and Nate Edmonds co-produced the B-Side, Don’t Go (I Can’t Bear To Be Alone). The single was released in November 1971. However, the single failed to replicate the success of Stay With Me Forever.
As 1971 gave way to 1972, Linda Jones entered the studio to record her next single, Your Precious Love. It was released in February 1972. Soon, it had entered the charts and began to climb. Then tragedy struck and suddenly music no longer mattered.
On the afternoon of March the 13th 1972, Linda Jones performed at a matinee at the Harlem Apollo. She returned to mother’s home, where she lived to rest between shows. That was where tragedy struck.
Later that afternoon, Linda Jones became unwell. An ambulance was called and she was taken to hospital. The following day, George Kerr visited the Jones’ household. He was told by a neighbour of Linda becoming unwell and an ambulance taking her to the hospital. By the time George made his way to the hospital, Linda had slipped into a diabetic coma. Later, that day, 14th February 1972 Linda Jones was pronounced dead. She was just twenty-seven.
Meanwhile, Your Precious Love continued to climb the charts, reaching number seventy-four in the US Billboard 100 and fifteen in the US R&B charts. Ironically, this was Linda Jones most successful single since What’ve I Done (To Make You Mad) in 1967. However, Your Precious Love was Linda’s final hit single.
Despite her death, Turbo Records continued to release singles bearing Linda Jones’ name. This included Linda Jones And Whatnauts’ collaboration I’m So Glad I Found You. It was released in June 1972, but failed to chart. That wasn’t the last Linda Jones single Turbo Records would release.
Let It Be Me was then released in September 1972. It also features on an album released by the All Platinum Group, Your Precious Love.
It featured number of tracks had been stockpiled during various recording sessions. These tracks were somewhat hastily released as a Linda Jones’ sophomore studio album. Among the tracks that featured on Your Precious Love, were Your Precious Love, Behold, Stay With Me Forever, Not On The Outside and I Can’t Make It Alone. When it was released later in 1972, Your Precious Love didn’t replicate the success of the single. Despite this, Turbo Records released another posthumous album of Linda Jones’ music.
The second Turbo Records’ album was Let It Be Me. One of the highlights was a beautiful, soulful ballad I Do. It allows Linda Jones to use her full vocal range. It’s a poignant reminder of a truly talented singer. Meanwhile, however, Turbo Records continued to release singles bearing Linda Jones’ name.
This included a new versions of Fugitive From Love. It was released in 1973, with Things I’ve Been Through on the B-Side. However, the single failed to trouble the charts. Later in 1973, the single was flipped over and Things I’ve Been Through was released as a single. Still success eluded the single which marked the end of the Turbo Records years.
By then, the first anniversary of Linda Jones death was approaching. However, her music lived on. That’s still the case today.
Nowadays, her music is growing in popularity, and she is reaching a wider audience. No wonder. Linda Jones is now remembered for possessing one of the finest and most versatile voices in soul music. If she had lived, Linda Jones had the potential to rival Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and Irma Thomas for the title Queen of Soul. Sadly, Linda Jones passed away on 14th of December 1972 and Tragedy had robbed soul music of his its talented singers who could’ve gone on to become the Queen of Soul.
Linda Jones-The Tragic Story Of The Lost Soul Queen.
The Monkees: From Folk & Roll To The Psychedelic Years and Beyond.
On September the ‘8th’ 1965, the Daily Variety contained an advert that said: “Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series.” This was a new sitcom that had been written by Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider about a struggling rock band from Los Angeles. The new sitcom would follow the adventures of Micky, Davy, Michael, and Peter as they searched for their big break. 437 musicians looking for their big break responded to the advert.
Eventually, Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider whittled their way through the hopeful applicants, and settled on three Americans Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and British actor and singer Davy Jones. They became The Monkees, which Mickey Dolenz later described as: “a TV show about an imaginary band … that wanted to be The Beatles, [but] that was never successful.”
While The Monkees never replicated the success of The Beatles, Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider’s television show proved popular in America and further afield. It ran for three series’ between 1966 and 1968, with Americans tuning in to fifty-eight episodes that followed the adventures of Micky, Davy, Michael, and Peter. During this period, The Monkees were one of the biggest selling bands in America.
The Monkees recording career began in October 1966 with their eponymous debut album, and lasted four years. Less than four years later, The Monkees released their swan-song Changes, in June 1970. Within a year, The Monkees has split-up after releasing nine album in less than four years.
These albums divided the opinion of critics, cultural commentators and record buyers, and continue to do so, forty-six years after The Monkees originally split-up. Some critics and record buyers regard The Monkees’ music as perfect pop, while others claim it as nothing more than bubblegum pop or manufactured pop. Both sides are firmly entrenched in their views about the merits or otherwise of The Monkees’ music. However, an oft-overlooked side of The Monkees’ career is their psychedelic era between 1966 and 1968. This was when The Monkees released some of the most memorable music of their career. Before that, The Monkees released their debut single.
When The Monkees released Last Train To Clarksville as their debut single on ‘18th’ August, the single started climb the charts, and reached number one in Canada and on the US Billboard 100. This was enough to give The Monkees their first gold disc in America. However, tucked away on the B-Side of the single was a taste of the psychedelic side of The Monkees, Take A Giant Step. It would feature on The Monkees’ eponymous debut album.
Just a month after The Monkees released their debut single, they released their debut album The Monkees in September 1966. Reviews of the album were mixed, with some critics still not convinced that The Monkees were a serious band. However, the positive reviews outnumbered the negative reviews of The Monkees. It started climbing the charts, and reached number one in Britain, Canada and on the US Billboard 200. The Monkees sold five million copies in America alone, and was certified platinum five times. Micky, Davy, Michael, and Peter’s debut album had proven popular and appealed to a wide range of record buyers.
It wasn’t just fans of pop and rock that were won over by The Monkees. So were fans of psychedelic music. The Monkees’ psychedelic side first emerged on their eponymous debut album. Goffin and King’s Take A Giant Step and David Gates’ Saturday’s Child showcased the psychedelic sound of The Monkees, which was very different to other songs on the album. Maybe The Monkees had designs on becoming a serious band?
More Of The Monkees.
Just four months after the release of The Monkees, America’s version of the Fab Four returned with their sophomore album More Of The Monkees in January 1967. By then, what had been dubbed Monkeemania was in full swing. As a result, More Of The Monkees was rushed out to capitalise on the band’s popularity. This showed, and More Of The Monkees proved not to be the band’s finest hour.
Critics weren’t won over by More Of The Monkees, and their reviews reflected this. They weren’t alone. The Monkees weren’t happy with their contribution to More Of The Monkees. It consisted of adding the vocals, and very occasionally playing the instruments that they were meant to be playing. Mostly, though, the interments were played by members of the Wrecking Crew who stood in for The Monkees. They weren’t happy about this and wanted full artistic control.
Three weeks after the release of More Of The Monkees, Michael Nesmith began lobbying the creators of The Monkees to play their instruments on future records. Don Kirshner who had been brought onboard to secure music for The Monkees was against the idea of The Monkees playing their instruments on future records.Things came to a head a heated meeting between The Monkees, Don Kirshner and Colgems lawyer Herb Moelis. At one point, Michael Nesmith threatened to leave The Monkees. Given the album sales, there was only going to be one winner.
From their third album, The Monkees, not members of the Wrecking Crew would play their instruments. Executives at the Colgems label were scared of upsetting the cash cow that was The Monkees. While More Of The Monkees wasn’t the band’s finest hour, it reached number one in Britain, Norway, Canada and America. More Of The Monkees sold five million copies and was certified platinum five times over. This was pretty good for an album that many considered to be rushed out to cash in on the popularity of Monkeemania.
One of the finest songs on More Of The Monkees is She, which was penned by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. Micky Dolenz adds a vocal on She, which featured The Monkees at their most lysergic. The psychedelic sound of The Monkees would return on their third album, Headquarters.
Four months after the release of More Of The Monkees, came the release of The Monkees’ third album Headquarters in May 1967. Headquarters which was produced by Chip Douglas, was the first album where The Monkees enjoyed full artistic control over their music. This came at a price.
After the dismissal of Don Kirshner, the songs that he had supervised were discarded. They wouldn’t feature on the album. Instead, it would only feature tracks where The Monkees enjoyed full artistic control. Still, though, session musicians were occasionally used, but they seemed to be a thing of the past.
Another difference was that much of the albums was written by members of The Monkees. This included the Micky Dolenz penned Randy Scouse Git and For Pete’s Sake which was written by Peter Tork and Joey Richards. Both songs were sung by Micky Dolenz and featured the psychedelic side of The Monkees. The strongest of the two tracks was For Pete’s Sake, which marked the start of a new era for The Monkees.
While most of the reviews of Headquarters were positive, some critics weren’t impressed by the first album where The Monkees enjoyed full artistic control. They felt some of the songs penned by members of The Monkees shouldn’t have made the cut. They wouldn’t if Don Kirshner had been around,and already it was apparent that his loss cost The Monkees dearly.
When Headquarters was released in May 1967 the album reached number two in Britain and Norway. In North America, Headquarters reached number one in Canada and in the US Billboard 100. However, the album sales were way down, with Headquarters selling ‘just’ two million copies. While this resulted in Headquarters being certified double platinum, the album had sold three million copies less than More Of The Monkees. To make matters worse, when Randy Scouse Git was released as a single, it never came close to troubling the charts. The Monkees had learnt an expensive lesson from Headquarters, that full artistic control came at a cost.
Two months after the release of Headquarters, The Monkees released a cover of Goffin and King’s Pleasant Valley Sunday as a single in July 1967. This example of perfect pop was one of the finest songs of The Monkees’ psychedelic era. It reached number three and was the fourth Monkees single to be certified gold. Maybe The Monkees’ luck was starting to change?
Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd.
There was no let up for The Monkees, who returned with another album in November 1967, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd. It was a quite different album from Headquarters.
Unlike Headquarters, where seven out of the twelve songs were written by members of The Monkees, only three of thirteen songs were written by the band. The remainder was cover versions, including songs written by successful songwriters and songwriting partnerships. This included Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart’s Words, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s Love Is Only Sleeping and Goffin and King’s Star Collector. They were joined by Goffin and King’s Pleasant Valley Sunday. These songs would showcase the psychedelic side of The Monkees.
When they came to record Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd, session musicians were drafted in. They had featured to some extent on Headquarters, but played a bigger part in the recording of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd. This made sense, as they weren’t accomplished enough musicians to record an entire album. The Monkees played their instruments on some of the songs, but elsewhere on the album, session musicians took their place. However, as the years went by, The Monkees improved as musicians.
The Chip Douglas produced Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd was released in November 1967, and was well received by most of the critics. However, The Monkees had their critics, who saw the them as nothing more than a made for television band. That was unfair, as The Monkees had just released one of the best albums, and an album that pioneered the use of the Moog synth.
While Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd was released, it reached number five in Britain, four in Norway and three in Canada. In America, it became The Monkees’ fourth album to reach number one. However, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd ‘only’ sold two million copies in America, and was certified double platinum. Maybe The Monkees’ popularity had peaked?
The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees.
Five months after the release of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd, The Monkees returned with their fifth album The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees. It marked the start of a new era for The Monkees, who had rung the changes in their pursuit of full artistic control. The Monkees had dispensed with the services of producer Chip Douglas, who had produced The Monkees first four albums. This was a huge risk.
By the time The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees was released, The Monkees television show had been cancelled. As a result, The Monkees were concentrating all their efforts on their music. Deep down, they wanted to be seen as a serious band. However, still, many critics and record buyers saw The Monkees as a manufactured, made for television band. They hoped that The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees would convince their critics that there was much more to them than that.
For their fifth album, members of The Monkees wrote six of the twelve tracks. This included Tapioca Tundra which was penned by Michael Nesmith. When it was recorded, The Monkees fused psychedelia and country. During the sessions, The Monkees continued to employ session musicians, who added backing vocals on some tracks. This was playing into the hands of The Monkees’ critics, who continued to accuse them of not being a ‘proper’ band. Their fans pointed The Monkees were a successful band, whose first four albums had sold in excess of fourteen million albums.
Before the release of The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees, critics had their say. The reviews were mixed, and again, there was no consensus amongst the critics. Some of the reviews were positive, while other were critical of The Monkees’ fifth album and the first they had produced themselves. With no consensus amongst the critics,record buyers had the casting vote.
The perfect pop of Daydream Believer was chosen as the lead single, and released in October 1967, It reached number one on the US Billboard 100 and was certified gold. Alas, Daydream Believer was the last of The Monkees’ nineteen singles to top the charts. However, the success of Daydream Believer augured well for the release of When The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees.
When The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees was released in April 1968, it failed to replicate the success of previous albums. The album failed to trouble the charts in Britain, where The Monkees had always been popular. It was a similar case in Canada, where The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees stalled at number six. In America, The Monkees was hoping that The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees would give them their fifth consecutive number one album. It was a case of close but no cigar, when The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees reached number three in the US Billboard 200. For The Monkees this was another disappointment. Especially when they heard that the album had sold just over a million copies. While this was enough for a platinum disc, it was a far cry from when both The Monkees and More Of The Monkees sold five million copies. Monkeemania it seemed, was now a thing of the past.
Maybe not? In February 1968, The Monkees released Valleri as the second single from The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees. The followup to Daydream Believer reached number three in the US Billboard 100 and was certified gold. Little did The Monkees realise that Valleri was their last single to be certified gold.
The followup to Valleri was D. W. Washburn, which was released in June 1968. However, it stalled at number nineteen in the US Billboard 100. This was a sign of what was to come
Four months later, and The Monkees returned with a new single in October 1968. The song that had been chosen was Goffin and King’s Porpoise Song, which featured on the soundtrack to Head. The Monkees had been asked to provide the soundtrack, and with a few friends created a soundtrack that mixed satire and darkness. Porpoise Song was a taste of what The Monkees had in store for their fans. However, the single stalled at a lowly sixty-two in the US Billboard 100, and became the second least successful single when it stalled at a lowly sixty-two in the US Billboard 100. This was worrying as Head was due to be released in late 1968.
Just like their previous albums, reviews of Head were mixed and there was no consensus among critics. While some critics loved the albums, others loathed it. This was nothing new. However, Head was the first soundtrack album The Monkees had recorded, and it featured six songs, including the lysergic Porpoise Song. It’s one of the best songs on Head. These six songs were joined by Ken Thorne’s incidental music, dialogue fragments, and sound effects from the film. As a result, it was very different to previous albums and it was unfair to compare Head to The Monkees’ studio albums. That was what the critics had done.
On the release of Head in December 1968, the album stalled a lowly forty-five in the US Billboard and twenty-four in Canada. This was the lowest chart placing in either country. Across the Atlantic in Britain, Head was the second album that failed to trouble the charts. This was a worrying time for The Monkees.
Not long after the release of Head, Peter Tork left The Monkees, citing exhaustion. The Monkees had recorded six albums in less than three years. They also filmed three series of the television series The Monkees and toured extensively. It was no wonder Peter Tork was exhausted. However, leaving The Monkees proved costly, as he had four years remaining on his contract. After paying a large, six figure sum of money, Peter Tork was no longer a monkey. However, he would feature on The Monkees’ swan-song Good Times!
Just four months after the release of Head in 1968, The Monkees returned with their seventh studio album Instant Replay in February 1969. Instant Replay was the first album The Monkees released after the departure of Peter Tork, and was the only one of the nine original studio albums that hadn’t featured in the original TV series.
By the tine work began on Instant Replay, Brendan Cahill had been appointed The Monkees’ new musical supervisor. He was tasked with transforming the group’s fortunes. Brendan Cahill decided to look into The Monkees’ vaults for songs that had been recorded when they were in the musical prime. This Brendan Cahill hoped would restore the group to the top of the US Billboard 200.
Eventually, Brendan Cahill settled on twelve songs that would become Instant Replay. These songs included Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart’s Through the Looking Glass, Don’t Listen To Linda, Me Without You and Tear Drop City. Two Goffin and King songs Won’t Be the Same Without Her and A Man Without a Dream joined Carol Bayer Sager and Neil Sedaka’s The Girl I Left Behind Me. The three remaining original members of the Monkees penned the rest of the album, Micky Dolenz wrote Just a Game and Shorty Blackwell, while Michael Nesmith contributed Don’t Wait For Me and While I Cry. Davy Jones wrote You and I with Bill Chadwick. This mixture of cover songs and original material had been recorded over a period of thirty-one months.
Brendan Cahill chose some songs recorded in the summer of 1966 by the original lineup of The Monkees. They joined new songs recorded in 1968 and 1969, including A Man Without a Dream and Someday Man were produced by Bones Howe and recorded at Wally Heider’s studio. Bones Howe brought onboard some of the Wrecking Crew to accompany The Monkees. Eventually, Instant Replay was completed, it featured of twelve songs recorded between July 1960 and January 1969.
When Instant Replay was released in February 1969, reviews of the album were mixed. Its mixture of pop, psychedelia and rock didn’t receive the same reception as previous albums. This was a disappointment for The Monkees.
When it came to releasing a lead single from Instant Replay, Brendan Cahill chose Tear Drop City, which was one of the songs from The Monkees’ vaults. Brendan Cahill decided to increase the tempo nine percent changing the song’s key from G to A-flat. Alas, that didn’t help Tear Drop City which stalled at fifty-six in the US Billboard 1o0 and forty-seven in the UK. For The Monkees this was another disappointment. Things didn’t get much better when Instant Replay was released, and reached just thirty-two in the US Billboard 200, forty-five in Canada and twenty-six in Japan. This was another disappointment for The Monkees, who were no longer as popular as they had once been. Proof of this was the followup single to Tear Drop City was Someday Man, which reached eighty-one in the US Billboard 1o0 and forty-four in the UK. It was beginning to look as if The Monkees’ career was at a crossroads.
The Monkees Present.
By the time The Monkees began work on their eighth album The Monkees Present, which is sometimes known as The Monkees Present Micky, David, Michael, their popularity had peaked. As a result, Screen Gems were no longer as interested in The Monkees, who were no longer the cash cow they had once been. This resulted in The Monkees being left to their own devices when it came to producing the The Monkees Present.
Originally, The Monkees Present was meant to be a double album, which devoted one side to the album to each member of The Monkees. That was until Peter Tork left The Monkees. To make matters worse, by the time it came to record the album, Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones had all embarked upon solo careers. As a result, a decision was made that The Monkees Present would be a single album.
For The Monkees Present, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart only contributed Looking For The Good Time and Ladies Aid Society. They joined Michael Martin Murphey’s Oklahoma Backroom Dancer and Janelle Scott and Matt Willis’ Pillow Time. The rest of the album was penned by The Monkees, with Michael Nesmith contributing Good Clean Fun, Never Tell A Woman Yes and Listen To The Band. Micky Dolenz wrote Mommy and Daddy and cowrote Bye Bye Baby Bye Bye with Ric Klein. Davy Jones wrote If I Knew with Bill Chadwick who penned French Song. These songs became The Monkees Present.
Just like Instant Replay, some of the songs had been recorded between August and October 1966, when The Monkees were in their prime. The rest of the album was recorded between June 1968 and August 1969. The result was an album that combined it was hoped combined classic Monkees with their new music. Surely this would be a winning formula?
Sadly, that wasn’t the case when The Monkees Present was released in October 1969. Critics weren’t impressed by what was one of The Monkees’ weakest album. They had eschewed their psychedelic sound and switched between country rock, folk rock, pop and rock. The Monkees Present wasn’t the most cohesive album The Monkees had released, and was slightly disjointed. This didn’t bode well for the release of The Monkees Present.
Things didn’t get any better when the lead single Listen To The Band stalled at sixty-three in the US Billboard 100. Then when The Monkees Present was released in early October 1969 it stalled at a lowly 100 in the US Billboard 200, and became The Monkees’ least successful album. Adding to The Monkees’ woes was the single Good Clean Fun struggling to eighty-three in the US Billboard 100. For The Monkees this was a worrying time.
Just when The Monkees thought things couldn’t get any worse, Michael Nesmith left the band. This left just Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz to fulfil The Monkees’ recording contract.
With just Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz remaining, recording The Monkees ninth studio album wasn’t going to be easy. However, the two remaining Monkees were reunited with producer Jeff Barry who cowrote much of the material on Changes.
Of the twelve songs on Changes, Jeff Barry wrote or cowrote six of them. He penned 99 Pounds and Tell Me Love and cowrote On My My, Do You Feel It Too and I Love You Better with Canadian singer-songwriter wrote Andy Kim. Jeff Barry and Bobby Bloom wrote Ticket on a Ferry Ride and You’re So Good to Me. The Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart songwriting partnership contributed I Never Thought It Peculiar while Ned Albright and Steven Soles wrote Acapulco Sun and All Alone In The Dark. They joined Neil Goldberg’s It’s Got To Be Love and Micky Dolenz’s Midnight Sun on Changes.
Just like The Monkees two previous albums, Changes was a mixture of old and new songs. Some songs were recorded during sessions that place in October 1966 with others recorded in January and February 1967. The Monkees had recorded other songs between July and September 1969 and then returned to the studio between February and April 1970. This allowed Colgems Records, a division of Columbia Records to put out an album as cheaply as possible. The only problem was the risk that it wouldn’t sound like a cohesive album when it was released in June 1970.
When critics heard Changes, they weren’t overly impressed with what was an essentially an album of bubblegum pop. Just like The Monkees two previous albums, Changes wash’t a cohesive album, and sounded like an assortment of tracks from the past four years. Even two remaining Monkees weren’t fans of Changes. Davy Jones called it his: “least favourite Monkees album” and said he had: “terrible memories of making Changes.” By then, The Monkees was over as a group, and Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz were merely fulfilling contractual obligations,
The Monkees went out with a whimper when Oh My My struggled into the lower reaches of the US Billboard 100 at ninety-eight. Then when Changes was released in June 1970, it stalled at 152 in the US Billboard 200. This was a new low for The Monkees.
On September ‘22nd’ 1970, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz recorded what was their swan-song as The Monkees. That day, they recorded Do It In The Name of Love and Lady Jane. However, Do It in the Name Of Love wasn’t mixed until February ‘ 9th’ 1971, and was released as a single later in 1971. However, Do It in the Name Of Love failed to chart and this was an inauspicious ending to The Monkees’ story.
The Monkees split-up in late 1971, and everyone thought that this was the end of a group who for five years, had divided the opinion of critics, cultural commentators and even music fans. However, in 1976, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz reformed the band and brought onboard Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart to makeup America’s once fab four. This was the first of several Monkees reunions and revivals that have taken place over the past forty years.
During their comebacks, The Monkees have recorded three new albums, including 1987s Pool It! ,1996s Justus and Good Times! in 2016. It was the album that saw The Monkees revisit their psychedelic sound,
After the commercial failure of Head, The Monkees didn’t revisit their psychedelic side until 2016, when they were celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of their eponymous debut album. To celebrate the anniversary, a new album was commissioned, which became Good Times!
This was the twelfth album of The Monkees career, and the first album since the death of Peter Tork. He appears posthumously on Little Girl, alongside the remaining Monkees Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter on Good Times! It’s one of thirteen songs on Good Times!, which reached number twelve in the US Billboard 200.
The songs on Good Times! are a mixture of old new and old. Some of the songs are penned by giants of music including the late, great Harry Nilsson and Neil Diamond. Others were written by successful songwriting partnerships like Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and the legendary Goffin and King. One of the new songs, Birth Of An Accidental Hipster, was written by Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller and finds The Monkees revisiting their psychedelic side one last time.
The Monkees psychedelic years began in 1966 and lasted until 1969. However, it was between 1966 and 1968 that The Monkees released the best psychedelic music of their career. That coincides with what was the most successful period of The Monkees career.
Some of the psychedelic music The Monkees made between 1966 and 1968 wasn’t overtly psychedelic. Instead, they find The Monkees moving in the direction of psychedelia. Maybe this was The Monkees seeking credibility in the eyes of critics and record buyers?
Despite their dalliances with psychedelia, The Monkees never fully embraced the genre like other sixties bands. Maybe it was a relationship that lacked commitment? The Monkees certainly never released a psychedelic masterpiece. However, during their occasional dalliances with psychedelia, The Monkees created several memorable moments, including Pleasant Valley Sunday, and underrated songs like Take A Giant Step, She, Love Is Only, Star Collector and Tapioca Tundra. These songs are a reminder of some of the finest moments of The Monkees’ dalliance with psychedelia.
While The Monkees may have never fully embraced psychedelia like many other sixties bands, ironically, this worked in their favour. The music on their first five albums, including the psychedelic side of The Monkees was accessible and was hugely popular, selling fifteen million copies in America alone. However, by December 1968, The Monkees had already enjoyed the most successful years of their career.
In America six of The Monkees singles had been certified gold, while one album of their albums had been certified platinum, two double platinum and The Monkees and More Of The Monkees had been certified platinum five times over. Never again would The Monkees reach these heights again.
The Monkees split-up in 1971, and later, made several comebacks. They even recorded three albums, including their swan-song Good Times! in 2016. By then, The Monkees had released nineteen singles, twelve studio albums and six live albums between 1966 and 2016. However, still, the most successful period of The Monkees career was between 1966 and 1968.
For just over two years, The Monkees were one of the biggest bands in America. They had found a winning formula, with albums that featured pop, rock and sometimes psychedelia. The psychedelic side of The Monkees is oft-overlooked and makes a welcome appearance on Summer Of Love which documents what were the Good Times! for America’s very own Fab Four.
The Monkees: From Folk & Roll To The Psychedelic Years and Beyond.
The Life and Music Of Fuzzy Haskins.
Between 1970 and 1977, Fuzzy Haskins was a member of not one, but two of the most prolific and successful funk bands of the seventies,..Parliament and Funkadelic. They released a total of fourteen albums, which sold in excess of 2.5 million copies. Still, though, Fuzzy Haskins found time to embark upon a solo career.
Fuzzy Haskins released his debut album, A Whole Nother Thang on Westbound Records in 1976. Two years later, and Fuzzy Haskins returned with his sophomore album Radio Active in 1978. However, these two solo albums are just part of the story of Fuzzy Haskins time at Westbound Records. Making music it seems, was what Fuzzy Haskins was born to do.
Clarence Eugene “Fuzzy” Haskins was born on June ‘8th’ 1941, in Elkins, West Virginia. That was where the future Fuzzy Haskins became interested in music. Just like many future singers, the church influenced Fuzzy Haskins. Some nights, the Haskins family would join together and they would sing hymns. They would harmonise together, which would stand Fuzzy Haskins in good stead for the future. So would the music he heard on local radio.
At first, it was country music that Fuzzy Haskins heard on the local radio station. Later in the evening, there would sometimes be an hour of R&B and blues music. So much so, that Fuzzy Haskins was inspired to go out and buy a three-stringed guitar for $3, which he taught himself how to play. This would stand him in good stead when the Haskins family moved to New Jersey in 1956.
By then, Fuzzy Haskins was fifteen and still at high school. When he arrived in New Jersey, Fuzzy Haskins joined a high school band The Bel-Airs. He would be a Bel-Air for four years, until he met George Clinton 1960.
George Clinton was nineteen, and working in a New Jersey barbershop when Fuzzy Haskins first met him. They both shared a love of music and were members of vocal groups. While Fuzzy Haskins was a Bel-Air, George Clinton lead his own group The Parliaments, who had already released their debut single Poor Willie, a year earlier, on the Apt label in 1959. Soon, Fuzzy Haskins would be joining The Parliaments.
When one of The Parliaments left the group, Fuzzy Haskins was chosen as his replacement. Little did Fuzzy Haskins realise when this was the first step on a journey that would see him joined The Parliaments that would see him inaugurated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Having joined The Parliaments, Fuzzy Haskins was soon singing lead vocal. He was also regularly travelling to Detroit. The first time was to audition for Motown. While The Parliaments weren’t signed to Motown, they were soon a familiar face on the Detroit music scene
Not only were The Parliaments a familiar face on Detroit’s live circuit, they also released singles on several local labels during the sixties. This included on Jobette and then Revilot Records, which released The Parliaments’ breakthrough single (I Wanna) Testify. It reached number three on the US R&B charts and twenty on the US Billboard 100. However, for four of The Parliaments, (I Wanna) Testify was a Pyrrhic victory.
At the time The Parliaments recorded (I Wanna) Testify, the band were experiencing cash-flow problems. They didn’t have enough money for the bus fare from New Jersey to Detroit. After a group meeting, it was decided that only George Clinton would travel to Detroit to record (I Wanna) Testify. Ironically, when (I Wanna) Testify was released in May 1967, it gave The Parliaments’ the biggest hit single of their career. As a result, The Parliaments embarked upon a promotional tour.
After touring (I Wanna) Testify, The Parliaments returned to the studio to record a followup single All Your Goodies Are Gone (The Loser’s Seat). When it was released in September 1967, The Parliaments embarked upon another tour. Despite this, All Your Goodies Are Gone (The Loser’s Seat) failed to replicate the success of (I Wanna) Testify. This was the start of what was a familiar pattern.
Never again did The Parliaments come close to replicating the success of (I Wanna) Testify. However, it was during this period that things started to change for The Parliaments.
Not only did The Parliaments’ sound begin to evolve, and move towards a psychedelic soul style, the lineup changed. Joining George Clinton, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, Grady Thomas and Ray Davies were the backing band of Eddie Hazel, Billy Nelson and Tiki Fulwood. They became known as Funkadelic, as The Parliaments were locked in a lengthy legal dispute.
This resulted in The Parliaments being unable to release any recordings for the next few years. However, George Clinton decided to transform The Parliaments’ backing band into the main event, Funkadelic.
The nascent band set about honing the P-Funk sound, which was a fusion of blues, funk and rock. This would make its debut on Funkadelic’s eponymous debut album, which featured the Fuzzy Haskins composition I Got a Thing, You Got a Thing, Everybody’s Got a Thing. Later in 1970, it was released as a single, reaching eighty in the US Billboard 100 and thirty in the US R&B charts. By then, Funkadelic had released their eponymous debut album.
When Funkadelic was released by Westbound Records on February ’24th’ 1970, what was a groundbreaking album where psychedelic soul, funk and acid rock melted into one. While Funkadelic was well received by critics at the time, it would only be much later, that critics realised and recognised the importance of the album. By then, Funkadelic had reached 126 in the US Billboard 200 and eight in the US R&B charts upon its release. For Fuzzy Haskins, Funkadelic was a game-changer.
In 1967, The Imperials couldn’t afford to pay the bus fare from New Jersey to Detroit to record a single. Three years later, and Funkadelic were basking in the success of their eponymous debut album, which had reached the top ten in the US R&B charts. Now Fuzzy Haskins knew that Funkadelic had do it all again.
Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow.
Fuzzy Haskins, George Clinton and the rest of Funkadelic entered the studio in Detroit to record their sophomore album Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow. George Clinton later described the album Funkadelic trying to: ”see if we can cut a whole album while we’re all tripping on acid.” What Funkadelic had achieved, was a critically acclaimed, genre-melting album.
When Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow was released in July 1970, reaching ninety-two in the US Billboard 200 and eleven in the US R&B charts. Five decades later, and Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow is regarded a classic. So is the followup, Maggot Brain. However, before its release, Parliament would make release their debut album.
September 1970 marked the release of Parliament’s debut album Osmium. It featured the five members of The Parliaments and the three members of Funkadelic. They had created an ambitious, experimental and genre-melting album where funk, psychedelic soul and psychedelic rock melt into one. The result was an ambitious and innovative album, but alas, was one that failed to find an audience. This was a huge disappointment, and things were about to get worse.
Contractual difficulties meant that Parliament were unable to record under the name Parliament, until 1974. This meant that George Clinton, Fuzzy Haskins and Co. concentrated their efforts on Funkadelic.
A year after the release of Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow, Funkadelic released their third album Maggot Brain in July 1971. By then, Eddie Hazel, Billy Nelson, Tawl Ross and Tiki Fulwood had left Funkadelic for a variety of reasons. Funkadelic were a band divided.
They weren’t alone. Maggot Brain divided the opinion of critics. Some critics hailed the album bland and boring, others hailed it a masterful funk rock album. Nowadays, Maggot Brian is regarded as a classic album, and a truly influential psychedelic rock album that’s dance-floor friendly. Record buyers were also won over by Maggot Brian, which reached 108 in the US Billboard 200 and fourteen in the US R&B charts. While this wasn’t quite as successful as their previous album, Funkadelic’s star was still in the ascendancy.
America Eats Its Young.
Ten months after the release of Maggot Brian, Funakdelic returned in May 1972 with America Eats Its Young. It was Funkadelic’s first double album, and featured a very different lineup of the Funkadelic that had joined George Clinton and Fuzzy Haskins.
While America Eats Its Young featured contributions from Eddie Hazel, Billy Nelson, Tawl Ross and Tiki Fulwood, Funkadelic were joined by members of two other bands. This included United Soul and the funk group The House Guests They were a five piece band which had been founded in 1971 by brothers Bootsy Collins and Catfish Collins after they left The JBs. These two bands augmented Funkadelic on America Eats Its Young.
Just like Maggot Brain, America Eats Its Young divided the opinion of critics. Although it received praise and plaudits from some critics, other critics weren’t won over by what was a sprawling album. That was part of America Eats Its Young. Just like many double albums, there was more than enough material for a single album, but in truth, not enough for a double album. As a result, America Eats Its Young stalled at 123 in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-two in the US R&B charts. This was the least successful album of Funkadelic’s career. For Fuzzy Haskins, this was a disappointment. However, it was the least of his worries.
When it came time for Funkadelic to record their fifth album Cosmic Slop, there was no sign of Bootsy Collins nor Fuzzy Haskins. He had been a mainstay of Funkadelic on their first four albums. Not any more though, as his role in Funkadelic started to change post 1972. He would add the occasional vocal on an album or play guitar. Sometimes, he would even head out on tour with Funkadelic. However, no longer was he one of the mainstays of the group.
Upon the release of Cosmic Slop in July 1973, most of the reviews were positive. There were still a few dissenting voice who weren’t convinced by P-Funk. This included Cosmic Slop, which later, was hailed as one of Funkadelic’s most important albums. However, in July 1973, Fuzzy Haskins watched as Cosmic Slop reached 112 in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-one in the US R&B charts. Commercially the album hadn’t fared much better than America Eats Its Young.
Standing on the Verge of Getting It On.
Fuzzy Haskins returned for Standing on the Verge of Getting It On, which was released in April 1974. It was a very different album from Cosmic Slop, with the music and jamming playing a more important role than the lyrics on the album. Especially, Eddie Hazel’s guitar, which plays a starring role on Standing on the Verge of Getting It On. With a guitar masterclass from Eddie Hazel and the return of Fuzzy Haskins, would this result in a change of fortune for Funkadelic?
Despite favourable reviews, Standing on the Verge of Getting It On failed to match even the success of Cosmic Slop. It stalled at 163 in the US Billboard 200, but reached thirteen in the US R&B charts. While this was disappointment, at least Parliament were free to record a new album.
Parliament-Up For The Down Stroke.
After a four-year absence, Parliament returned with their sophomore album Up For The Down Stroke. It was the first album since 1972s America Eats Its Young to feature Bootsy Collins, who cowrote two tracks on the album. Fuzzy Haskins also cowrote two tracks, Up For The Down Stroke and All Your Goodies Are Gone. This was the first time that Fuzzy Haskins’ had contributed a song for an album since Funkadelic in 1970. The members of Parliament hoped that Up For The Down Stroke would prove as successful as Funkadelic.
When Up For The Down Stroke was released in July 1974, it featured a reworking of The Parliaments’ hit (I Wanna) Testify, which became Testify. However, Up For The Down Stroke was released as the lead single, reaching sixty-three in the US Billboard 100 and ten in the US R&B charts. Testify was chosen as the followup, but stalled at just seventy-seven on the US R&B charts. By then, Up For The Down Stroke had reached seventeen on the US R&B charts. It looked as if Parliament’s was changing. Fuzzy Haskins had played his part in the success of Up For The Down Stroke.
April 1975 marked the return of Parliament with their third album. This time around, Fuzzy Haskins cowrote I Misjudged You and Bigfootin’, and was one of the vocalists used on Chocolate City. It was Parliament’s tribute to Washington DC, where the band had a large following. This became apparent when Chocolate City was released.
Most of the reviews of Chocolate City were positive. However, there were a few dissenting voices who weren’t won over by Chocolate City. They felt it wasn’t as cohesive an album as its predecessor. Despite that, Chocolate City reached ninety-one in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-two in the US R&B charts. 150,000 copies of Chocolate City were sold in Washington DC alone. This was the start of period when Parliament could do no wrong. It looked as if Fuzzy Haskins would play an important part in the Parliament story.
Funkadelic-Let’s Take It to the Stage.
Just a couple of weeks after Parliament released Chocolate City, Funkadelic returned with their seventh album Let’s Take It to the Stage in late April 1975. It featured ten tracks, including Good to Your Earhole which Fuzzy Haskins cowrote. He was one of the vocalists that featured on Let’s Take It to the Stage.
Let’s Take It to the Stage found Funkadelic at their tightest, as they lived up to their early promise. This time, there were no dissenting voices among the critics and it was critical acclaim that accompanied Let’s Take It to the Stage. It reached 102 in the US Billboard 200 and fourteen in the US R&B charts. This meant that Let’s Take It to the Stage was Funkadelic’s most successful album since Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow in July 1970. Soon, that would pale into comparison when Parliament released their next album.
When the latest lineup of Parliament returned with their fourth album Mothership Connection in December 1975, it featured two new additions…Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker. They joined what was fast becoming an all-star band that featured the great and good of funk. It already featured George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell and Fuzzy Haskins. The addition of Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker resulted in what critics hailed as the best album of Parliament’s career.
Mothership Connection was an innovative and influential funk rock concept album based on P-Funk mythology. It reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 200 and four in the US R&B charts. Soon, Mothership Connection had sold over 500,000 copies and was certified gold. Eventually, Mothership Connection sold a million copies and gave Parliament their first gold disc. For Parliament it was a career defining album.
Fuzzy Haskins-A Whole Nother Thang.
Despite the success of Mothership Connection, Fuzzy Haskins was growing frustrated that his songs were no longer featuring on albums by Funkadelic and Parliament. He also watched as Bootsy Collins, a relative newcomer to the Funkadelic and Parliament family, embarked upon a solo career. This added to Fuzzy Haskins’ frustration.
Fuzzy Haskins and George Clinton went back a long way together. He had joined George Clinton in The Parliaments in 1960, fifteen years ago. Since then, Calvin Simon, Grady Thomas and Fuzzy Haskins had shared good times and had bad with George Clinton. Maybe though, Fuzzy Haskins had to think about the future. So he decided to record a solo album during the time Funkadelic and Parliament weren’t recording or touring.
For his debut solo album A Whole Nother Thang, Fuzzy Haskins wrote eight of the nine songs. He also wrote Fuz and da Boog with Funkadelic and Parliament bassist Cordell Mosson. He was one of the members of the Funkadelic and Parliament family who joined Fuzzy Haskins when he recorded A Whole Nother Thang.
Recording took place at three studios in Detroit, Artie Fields Studios, Pac Three Studios and United Sound Studios. Joining Fuzzy Haskins was rhythm section that featured drummers Tiki Fulwood; bassist Bootsy Collins and Cordell Mosson who also played drums; and guitarists Donald Austin and Ron Bykowski. Keyboardist Bernie Worrell also arranged strings and horns. Fuzzy Haskins played drums, added the lead vocals and produced A Whole Nother Thang. It was released in the first half of 1976.
When A Whole Nother Thang was released in 1976, it was released to critical acclaim. That was no surprise, as A Whole Nother Thang featured some of the backlog of songs that had built up over the last few years. At last, Fuzzy Haskins got the opportunity to showcase these songs when he entered the studio with creme de la creme of P-Funk. The result was album that oozed quality. Despite the quality of music on A Whole Nother Thang, the album didn’t sell in vast quantities, and didn’t find the audience it deserved.
After the release of A Whole Nother Thang, Fuzzy Haskins returned to the Parliament and Funkadelic family. He had to rejoin the P-Funk Live Earth Tour in late 1976. By then, Parliament and Funkadelic had both been busy.
Parliament-The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein.
Nine months after the release of Mothership Connection, came The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein in September 1976. Parliament were keen to build upon the success of their million selling album. By then, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell had established a successful songwriting partnership. Still, Fuzzy Haskins remained one of the vocalists on what was a critically and commercially successful album of P-Funk.
Just like Mothership Connection, The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein was hailed as one of Parliament’s finest albums. Although it didn’t quite match Mothership Connection, The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein sold well, reaching twenty on the US Billboard 200 and three in the US R&B charts. Fuzzy Haskins was now a member of one of the biggest selling funk bands of the seventies.
Funkadelic-Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic.
Not long after Parliament released of The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein, Funkadelic released their eighth album Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic. It was the last album that Funkadelic were contractually obliged to release for Westbound. Already, Funkadelic had recorded their Warner Bros’ debut Hardcore Jollies. Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic was essentially an album of outtakes and unused recordings from the Hardcore Jollies. It was rushed out to cash-in on the success of Parliament’s album The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein.
This was a risky move, and one that could’ve backfired on Funkadelic. Especially if the album didn’t find favour with critics or failed to sell. Fortunately, the album was well received by critics and upon its release in September reached 103 in the US Billboard 200 and fourteen in the US R&B charts. Now Funkadelic signed to Warner Bros and a month later, released their major label debut.
In October 1976, Funkadelic released their ninth album Hardcore Jollies. It featured the best of the tracks recorded during a recording session that took place earlier in 1976. Funkadelic were at their inventive best on an album that featured inventive and genre-melting funky music.
Critics hailed Hardcore Jollies as one of Funkadelic’s best and strongest albums of recent years. It reached ninety-six in the US Billboard 200 and twelve in the US R&B charts. This was the most successful album Funkadelic had released since Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow in 1970.
Live: P-Funk Earth Tour.
After the success of Hardcore Jollies, Fuzzy Haskins joined true rest of the Parliament and Funkadelic family on the P-Funk Live Earth Tour in October 1976. The tour continued into 1977, when the Live: P-Funk Earth Tour arrived Los Angeles. At the show at the Los Angeles Forum on the ‘19th’ January the tapes were running for a live album. That was the case at the Oakland Coliseum on the ‘21st’ January 1977. Recordings from these two shows would feature on Parliament’s live double album Live: P-Funk Earth Tour, upon its release in May 1977.
By then, three of the original members of The Parliaments, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, and Grady Thomas had left the band. Not long after the three former Parliaments left the band, Glen Goins parted company with Funkadelic. This was no surprise.
The P-Funk Live Earth Tour was a hugely expensive tour to take on the road. Given the expenses, it was imperative that the show sold out, each night. That wasn’t the case, and as throughout the tour, it lost money. By the end of the P-Funk Live Earth Tour had lost so much money, that the musicians weren’t getting paid. When they received the news, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, and Grady Thomas left the P-Funk family.
The only small crumb of comfort came when Live: P-Funk Earth Tour was certified gold upon its release in May 1977. By then Fuzzy Haskins was looking towards the future, and his sophomore album, Radio Active.
Having left the P-Funk family, Fuzzy Haskins began work on his sophomore album Radio Active. He penned six of the songs and cowrote Silent Day with Cordell Mosson. The other song on Radio Active was the Glenn Goins composition This Situation Called Love. These eight tracks were recorded with some top musicians, including some of the P-Funk family and members of the Funk Mob.
When it came to recording Radio Active, Fuzzy Haskins and his band headed into one of Detroit’s many studios. That was where he and his multitalented band laid down the eight songs. Accompanying him was drummer Jerome Brailey, bassist Cordell Mosson and guitarists Garry Shider and Michael Hampton. They were joined by keyboardist Bernie Worrell, percussionist Jerome Podgajski and Glen Goins who played drums, guitar and piano. Meanwhile, Gary Schunk played synths and piano and Bruce Nazarian played bass synth. Fuzzy Haskins switched between drums and guitar, while taking charge of the lead vocals and production. Once Radio Active was complete, it was released later in 1978.
Recording Radio Active hadn’t been easy for Fuzzy Haskins, who was finding it hard to reconcile his life as a musician to his newfound spirituality. Throughout the recording of Radio Active, Fuzzy Haskins was conflicted, and was constantly questioning what he had done and was doing. Considering he was producing the album, other musicians were looking to Fuzzy Haskins for guidance, it can’t have been an easy album to record. Fortunately, most of the musicians were experienced and were able to overcome any problems arose. However, by the time Radio Active was released Fuzzy Haskins seemed detached from the project.
So much so, that he never even embarked upon the tour Westbound Records financed to promote Radio Active. Given his detachment from the Radio Active project, it was no surprise when the album failed commercially. That was shame given the quality of some of the songs on Radio Active.
After the release of Radio Active, Fuzzy Haskins, who was a truly talented and versatile singer, songwriter and musician, never released any further solo albums.
Instead, Fuzzy Haskins turned his back on the music industry and became a preacher. It was only after a chance meeting with Armen Boladian that Fuzzy Haskins recorded a gospel album. This resulted in Fuzzy Haskins working with Calvin Simon, Ray Davis and Grady Davis of The Parliaments. They were reunited as the Original P, but never recorded together. It was just four old friends making music together, like it had once been. That was how The Parliaments started out in 1960.
As a result, the final secular songs that Fuzzy Haskins recorded were those that featured on Radio Active when it was released in 1978. They marked the secular swan-song of the truly talented Fuzzy Haskins, before he embarked upon a career as a preacher and are a reminder of his solo career.
The Life and Music Of Fuzzy Haskins.
Harmonia-A Supergroup and “The Most Important Band In The World.”
Throughout musical history, innovative music has often failed to find an audience upon its release. It’s only much later, that the music’s importance and innovation is recognised. Musical history is littered with examples. This includes the group that Brian Eno once called : “the most important band in the world,” Harmonia.
Despite such high praise, Harmonia’s albums failed to find the audience that they deserved, and the band struggled make a living. For Germany’s first ever supergroup, this was an inauspicious start to their career.
Just over twenty years later, and somewhat belatedly, Harmonia’s music was beginning to find a much wider audience, and receiving the recognition it deserved. At last, Harmonia had taken their place at the top table of Krautrock, alongside Can, Kraftwerk, Cluster, and Neu! This was somewhat belated, given The Harmonia story began back in 1973.
Harmonia featured members of Neu! and Cluster. They decided to form Back in 1973, Neu! had just released their sophomore album Neu! 2. It failed to match commercial success and critical acclaim of their eponymous debut album. Neu! had sold 30,000 copies in Germany alone. This was good for an underground album. However, Neu! 2 was a different matter.
The problems started when Neu! went into the studio to record Neu! 2. They had booked ten days to record their second album. This should’ve been plenty of time. Neu! had recorded their debut album in four days. However, Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger spent too long recording side one of the album. With only three days left, the pair panicked. Desperation set in. Then they remembered a single Neu! had released, Neuschnee which featured Super on the flip-side. This was the solution to their problems.
So for side two of Neu! 2, Michael and Klaus recorded versions of Neuschnee and Super. Michael remembers “We did all sorts of things. I played the single on a turntable, and Klaus kicked it as it played. We than played the songs in a cassette player, slowing and speeding up the sound, and mangling the sound in the process.” Just like their debut album, Neu! 2 was completed just in time. It was another: “close shave.”
With Neu! 2 complete, it was scheduled for release later in 1973. When the album was released, critics were won over by side one. Neu! were refining the sound of their debut album. Für immer was Neu! 2’s masterpiece. However, critics weren’t impressed by side two.
Many critics saw the music as gimmicky, and accused Neu! trying to fool and rip off record buyers. Indignant critics took the moral high-ground. Some record buyers agreed. “They felt that we were trying to rip them off. That was not the case.” Side two was Neu! at their most experimental, deconstructing ready-made music only to reconstruct or manipulate it. However, neither critics nor record buyers realised this, and Neu! 2 failed commercially. This left Michael Rother and Klause Dinger with a problem.
Both men decided to look for a solution to the problem. Klaus headed to London, where he tried to drum up interest in Neu! Meanwhile, Michael found the solution to his problem in a song.
After hearing “Im Süden, a track from Cluster’s sophomore album Cluster II,” Michael Rother decided to turn Neu! into the first German supergroup. So Michael embarked upon a journey to the Forst Commune, where his he had a proposal for two of his friends, Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster.
As Michael made his way to the Forst Commune, he wondered if Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius would be interested in joining an extended lineup of Neu!? Then Michael began to consider another possibility, a German supergroup consisting of Neu! and Cluster? This would be a first. Nobody had ever tried this before. It was the opportunity of a lifetime.
Soon, it became apparent that Michael’s idea of a supergroup was about to take shape, just not in the way Michael had originally envisaged. That initial jam later became Ohrwurm, a track from Harmonia’s 1974 debut album Musik von Harmonia. Following their initial jam session, Michael stayed at the Forst Commune to prepare for the recording of Harmonia’s debut album. Germany’s first supergroup had just been born. It wasn’t an extended version of Neu! Instead, it was a new band Harmonia.
Musik von Harmonia.
Soon, Michael Rother, Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius started recording what became Musik von Harmonia in June 1973. It was meeting of musical minds. Over the next five months, Harmonia recorded eight songs. The two members of Cluster were receptive to Michael Rother’s way of working. Hans-Joachim Roedelius explained recently: “there were no problems, we wanted to learn. Previously, we improvised, which made playing live problematic. A song was merely the starting point, it could go anywhere. Michael however, taught us about structure. We influenced him. It was a two-way thing.”
That’s definitely the case. Michael Rother believes: “that working with Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius made him a more complete musician.” Over his time working with the two members of Cluster; “I learnt so much.”
This became apparent when Musik von Harmonia was completed in November 1974. Harmonia’s 1974 debut album, Musik von Harmonia, was a move towards ambient rock. Both Michael Rother and the two members of Cluster’s influences can be heard on the nascent supergroup’s debut album. It was released in January 1974.
When Musik von Harmonia was released, many critics realised the importance of what’s a groundbreaking classic. It saw this nascent supergroup seamlessly embrace and incorporate disparate musical genres. In the process, Harmonia set the bar high for future ambient rock albums. Critical acclaim the release of Musik von Harmonia Brian Eno on hearing the album, called Harmonia: “the most important band in the world.” Despite the critical acclaim and the endorsement of Brian Eno, Musik von Harmonia wasn’t a commercial success. For Harmonia, this was a huge disappointment.
Michael Rother remember ruefully: “the seventies weren’t a good time for Harmonia. Our music was ignored, it was tough to survive during this period. So towards the end of 1974, Michael and Klaus reunited for Neu!’s third album.
That wasn’t the end of Harmonia though. Neu! spent December 1974 and January of 1975 recording their third album Neu! 75. It was scheduled for release later in 1975. By then, the recording of Harmonia’s sophomore album began in June 1975.
The Return Of Harmonia-Deluxe.
In June 1975, the three members of Harmonia returned to their studio in Forst for the recording of their sophomore album, Deluxe. Joining them, was a new face, Conny Plank, who was co-producing Deluxe. Conny Plank and Michael were good friends, and had worked together on three projects. This included Kraftwerk’s aborted album and Neu!’s two album. The addition of the man who Michael Rother calls: “the genius,” just happened to coincide with Harmonia changing direction musically.
Deluxe saw a move towards Komische musik. Partly, this was down to the addition of Guru-Guru drummer Mani Neumeier. He played on some track, and added a Komische influence. Another change was that Michael Rother’s guitar played a more prominent role. That wasn’t Michael’s only influence.
The music on Deluxe was more song oriented. This was Michael Rother’s influence. He had taught the two members of Cluster the importance of structure. However, still Harmonia were experimenting, pushing musical boundaries. This was Cluster’s influence. Other parts of Deluxe had been influenced by Michael Rother. Hans-Joachim Roedelius agrees. “Michael Rother’s influence can be heard on Deluxe, more so than on Musik von Harmonia.” What was also noticeable, was that Deluxe had a more commercial sound.
“This wasn’t a conscious decision. The music morphed and evolved, and the result was Deluxe,” Hans-Joachim Roedelius reflects. Michael Rother agrees. “Every album I’ve made I set out for it to be commercial. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t work out that way.” Sadly, that proved to be the case.
When Deluxe was released in 1975, to the same critical acclaim as Musik von Harmonia. The noticeable shift to what was a more commercial sound, surely would lead to a change in Harmonia’s fortunes?
That wasn’t to be. Deluxe was released on 20th August 1975, and sales of the album were slow. They never picked up, and history it seemed, was repeating itself. Michael reflects: “Still our music was being ignored. It was a difficult time for us. So much so, that Michael decided to record his debut solo album.
By then, it looked as if Harmonia had run its course. So Michael Rother decided to embark upon a solo career. That would take up the majority of his time. Michael’s first solo album was “Flammende Herzen which I recorded at Conny’s Studio,” during June 1976. Then later in the summer, Harmonia recorded their third and final studio album.
Tracks and Traces.
Little did the three members of Harmonia realise, that Deluxe was the last album they would release for thirty-two years. For what was their swan-song, Harmonia were joined by another legend, Brian Eno.
At the studio in Forst, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Dieter Moebius, Michael Rother and Brian Eno spent eleven summer days recording what was meant to be their third album. The working title was Harmonia ’76. However, by then, “Michael Rother was wanting to concentrate on his solo career. Once the album was completed, it became apparent Harmonia had run its course. It was evolution.” So, Harmonia ’76 was never released until 1997.
During the next thirty-one years, it was thought that the master tapes had gone missing. “That was a rumour. Harmonia ’76 was released as Tracks and Traces in 1997.” Then ten years later, in 2007, Harmonia reunited.
The reunion was for the release of their Live 1974 album. It featured a a recording of Harmonia’s concert on the 23rd March 1974, at Penny Station Club in Griessem, Germany.
Live ’74 features just five lengthy tracks. As Harmonia open the show with a near eleven minute version of Schaumburg instantly, the listener is transported back to that night on 23rd March 1974. Harmonia then work their way through Veteranissimo, which becomes a seventeen minute epic, Arabesque and the Magnus Opus that’s Holta-Polta. Then Harmonia close the set with Ueber Ottenstein. These five tracks are a snapshot of Harmonia at the peak of their powers. They were one of the greatest German bands, but very few people had realised this. By 2007, when Live ’74 was released, it was common knowledge that Harmonia were Komische royalty.
To celebrate the release of Live 1974, Harmonia played live for the first time since 1976. This landmark concert took place at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, on November 27th 2007. Sadly, it was the last time Harmonia played together.
After a brave and lengthy battle against cancer, Dieter Moebius died on 20th July 2015. By then, Harmonia were receiving the recognition that their music so richly deserved. Dieter Moebius with Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Michael Rother had been part of one of the most innovative groups in the history Krautrock. They’re now regarded as one of the finest purveyors of Krautrock. That’s why Harmonia sit proudly alongside Can, Cluster, Kraftwerk and Neu! at Krautrock’s top table.
Sadly, the recognition that Harmonia received, came long after they released their two classic albums, Musik Von Harmonia and Deluxe. Nowadays, Harmonia are regarded as one of the most important, influential and innovative Krautrock bands of the seventies. Forty years after the release of Musik Von Harmonia and Deluxe, Harmonia is more popular than ever. For Michael Rother, that’s ironic. He remembers how: “the seventies weren’t a good time for Harmonia. Our music was ignored, it was tough to survive during this period.” Now things are very different for Harmonia. They’re quite rightly regarded as one the giants Komische music. Harmonia are regarded as just as important, influential and innovative as Can, Kraftwerk and Neu! That’s why Brian Eno once called Harmonia: “the most important band in the world.”
Harmonia-A Supergroup and “The Most Important Band In The World.”
Four Decades Of Making Music: The Cluster Story.
The Cluster story began in the Zodiak Free Arts Lab in West Berlin when Hans-Joachim Roedelius first met Dieter Moebius. Little did they know that they were about to embark upon a musical journey that would last five decades.
During that period, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius were part of three of the most important, influential, and innovative bands of the Kominische era. This includes Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia. Each of these groups have inspired several generations of musicians. That’s still the case today. However, the Cluster story, Hans-Joachim Roedelius told me, began in the late sixties.
It was in 1968, at the height of the psychedelic era, that Hans-Joachim Roedelius “cofounded music commune Human Being. I also co-founded Zodiak Free Arts Lab in West Berlin with conceptual artist Conrad Schnitzler. At that period, I was a member of the group Human Being, a forerunner of Kluster.” For Hans-Joachim Roedelius: “this was an exciting time, where there was a sense that anything was possible. It was like a revolution. We were happy to have found this place to work. All the freelance musicians in the city found their way to Zodiak Free Arts Lab. There were members of Can, Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra, Neu! at Zodiak. They were great times.” The Zodiak Free Arts Lab was also where Hans-Joachim Roedelius met someone who would play a huge part in his career, Dieter Moebius.
“About the end of 1969, Dieter Moebius visited The Zodiak Free Arts Lab. He wasn’t a member. No. He just visiting, and we got talking.” The two men found they had a lot in common, including the way they believed music should be made. It was almost inevitable that Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius would form a group.
“It was later, in 1970 that we founded Kluster.” Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius joined with Conrad Schnitzler to form Kluster. However, Kluster was no ordinary band.
Initially, Cluster played an eclectic instruments and utensils. “Everything was spontaneous. Improvisation was key.” Kluster’s music was described in The Crack In The Cosmic Egg magazine as “unlike anything heard before.” Hans-Joachim Roedelius admits: “that was what Kluster set out to do. Kluster was about musical activism.” Soon, the musical activists would record their debut album.
Kluster’s debut album came about in the unlikeliest of circumstances. Although band were based in West Berlin; “one night we were playing a concert in Dusseldorf. A priest just happened to be walking past, and heard the music. He liked our music, and came in to the hall. Once the concert was finished, he asked if we would like to record an album of new church music? The answer was yes!” So Kluster made the journey to the Rhenus-Studio in Gordor.
When Kluster arrived at the Rhenus-Studio, “we met Conny Plank and producer Oskar Gottlieb Blarr. We went into the studio and recorded an hour of music in one take. Religious text was added to this, and became the ‘new church music.’ The music became our first two albums Klopfzeichen and Zwei-Osterei.
Only 300 copies of both albums were pressed. Klopfzeichen was released in 1970, with Zwei-Osterei following in 1971. Critics realised the importance of Kluster’s music. It was described as quite extraordinary, bleak, stark, unnerving and full of electricity. Despite the reviews, the sales of Klopfzeichen and Zwei-Osterei were small. However, later, Kluster would be recognised as one of the most influential groups of the early seventies. This influential and innovative group would only release one further album.
This was Eruption, which was recorded by Kluster during 1971. It featured an hour of experimental music, which was recorded by Klaus Freudigmann. Eruption is quite different from Kluster’s first two albums. There is no religious text, just Kluster at their innovative best. For many, Eruption is Kluster’s finest hour. However, 1971 marked the end of an era for Kluster. One group became two.
Kluster To Cluster.
In the middle of 1971, Conrad Schnitzler left Kluster, and briefly, worked with another band, Eruption. This was the beginning of the end for Kluster.
After the original lineup of Kluster split-up, “Dieter Moebius and I anglicised the band’s name, and Kluster became Cluster.” Between 1971 and 2009, Cluster would release twelve studio albums and four live album. Cluster’s debut was released later in 1971.
When Cluster recorded their eponymous debut album, they were joined in the studio by another legend of German music, Conny Plank. He featured on Cluster, which marked a change in sound. Gone was the almost industrial, discordant sound, which was replaced by an electronic sound. “Dieter and I played all the instruments and Conny added all sorts of effects. For us this was the start of a new era.”
Cluster was released later in 1971 on Phillips. “This was Cluster’s major label debut. It found Cluster at a crossroads.” They were ready to turn their back on the avant-garde, almost discordant and industrial sound of Kluster, and begin the shift towards the ambient and rock-tinged sound of the late seventies. That was the future.
Before that, Cluster began work on their eponymous debut album. In the studio, Cluster set about honing and sculpting a trio of soundscapes. Hans-Joachim Roedelius remembers: Cluster which had very little melody, is a series of improvised and atmospheric soundscapes.” They’re best described as futuristic, moody, dramatic and truly captivating. Heavy rhythms, beeps, squeak and drones drenched in effects assail the listener. It’s as if Cluster have been inspired by avant-garde, free jazz, early electronica, industrial, free jazz and even rock. This fusion of influences became Cluster.
Once Cluster was completed, the album was released on Philips. Little did anyone, even Cluster themselves, realise the effect album bearing the serial number Philips 6305074 would have. Nowadays, Cluster is regarded as an innovative classic, and in a sense, this was the start of Cluster’s career in earnest.
“For the followup to Cluster, Conny Plank was no longer a member of Cluster. We were now a duo, consisting of Dieter and I. Conny had other projects he wanted to concentrate on.” With three becoming two, the two remaining members took a different approach to recording.
Cluster had added to their impressive arsenal of equipment. As Conny Plank watched on, two organs, analog synths, a Hawaiian guitar, a bass and an electronically treated cello were brought into the studio. Cluster weren’t finished yet. The two members of Cluster started setting up array of effects. This included audio-generators which usually, was found in an electrician’s toolbox. They became part of Cluster’s alternative orchestra. With everything setup, Cluster got to work.
“To some extent, it was trial and error. We tried different things. Some worked, others didn’t,” Hans Hans-Joachim Roedelius explains. The end result, Cluster II “saw a further shift towards a more electronic sound.”
The music veered between futuristic and dramatic to hypnotic, dreamy, lysergic and otherworldly. Sometimes the music becomes pastoral; other times understated and occasionally, explodes into life. However, for much of the time, Cluster II is melodic and mesmeric. Again, Cluster had produced an album that was way ahead of its time.
When Cluster II was released, it was on Germany premier label when it came to ambitious and innovative music, Brain. Cluster II was assigned the serial number Brain 1006, and when in was released in 1972, it was well on its way to becoming a groundbreaking genre classic.
Ironically, many German critics and record buyers overlooked groups like Cluster. Instead, they were more interested in the music coming out of America and Britain. Incredibly, they never realised that some of the most innovative music was being made in their own backyard. This includes that made by musical chameleons, Cluster whose music would continue to evolve.
Zuckerzeit, Cluster’s third album, was released in 1974, and was co-produced by Michael Rother of Neu! “Michael first met Dieter and I in 1971. By 1973, Michael was on a break from Neu! We decided to head into the countryside to Forst, to build our own recording studio.” This could’ve been fraught with problems? “No. We knew what we were doing and trying to achieve. All of us had experience in studios, so knew what was required.” The result was a studio “where Michael, Dieter and I recorded the two Harmonia albums, Musik Von Harmonia and Deluxe.” However, before that, Zuckerzeit was released.
On the release of Zuckerzeit, in 1974 Michael Rother’s influence is noticeable. He placed more emphasis on melody, rhythm and the motorik beat.” Hans-Joachim Roedelius explains that previously, Cluster didn’t place the same importance on melody or structure. Michael introduced structure and discipline.” The result was a very different album.
That’s apparent from the opening bars of Hollywood. A crisp Motorik beat provides the backdrop for Cluster’s synths. They create music that’s variously melodic, ethereal, evocative, haunting and cinematic. Especially on tracks like Hollywood, Rosa, Fotschi Tong and Marzipan. Then on Rote Riki, the music becomes futuristic, with the man machine adding sci-fi sounds that sound as if they’re from a distant planet. Meanwhile, Caramel would influence future generations of dance music producers. Although Caramba has futuristic sound, it’s melodic and contemporary. It sounds as if it belongs on the dance-floors of Berlin’s clubs. This is incredible, given Zuckerzeit was released later in 1972.
Cluster had released two albums on Brain during 1972. Both would become future genre classics, and both would show a different side to Cluster. Zuckerzeit with its mixture of electronic pop, art rock and avant-garde, was an album way ahead of its time. It’s a truly innovative and timeless album, where Cluster continue to reinvent themselves. The decision to bring Michael Rother onboard as producer was a masterstroke; and also resulted in the birth of a new band, Harmonia.
The Birth Of Harmonia.
After completing their recording studio in Forst, it seemed only natural that the three friends record an album. So Harmonia was born. It was meeting of musical minds. The two members of Cluster were receptive to Michael Rother’s way of working. Hans-Joachim Roedelius explains: “there were no problems, we wanted to learn. Previously, we improvised, which made playing live problematic. A song was merely the starting point, it could go anywhere. Michael however, taught us about structure. We influenced him. It was a two-way thing.”
Musik von Harmonia.
That proved to be the case. “Harmonia’s 1974 debut album, Musik von Harmonia, was a move towards ambient rock.” While Michael Rother influence can be heard, so can the two members of Cluster. Their influence is more prominent. They adds an ambient influence to what’s a groundbreaking classic. It saw this nascent supergroup seamlessly embrace and incorporate disparate musical genres. In the process, Harmonia set the bar high for future ambient rock albums. However, Harmonia changed tack on the followup to Musik von Harmonia.
The three members of Harmonia reconvened in their studio in Forst for the recording of Deluxe. Co-producing Deluxe was Conny Plank. This just happened to coincide with Harmonia changing direction musically.
Deluxe saw a move towards Krautrock or Kominische music. The music was more song oriented. However, still Harmonia were experimenting, pushing musical boundaries. This was Cluster’s influence. Other parts of Deluxe had been influenced by Michael Rother. Hans-Joachim Roedelius agrees. “Michael Rother’s influence can be heard on Deluxe, more so than on Musik von Harmonia.” What was also noticeable, was that Deluxe had a more commercial sound. “This wasn’t a conscious decision. The music morphed and evolved, and the result was Deluxe.” It was released in 1975, to the same critical acclaim as Musik von Harmonia. However, the end was nigh for Harmonia.
Tracks and Traces.
Little did the three members of Harmonia realise, that Deluxe was the last album they would release for thirty-two years. For what was their swan-song, Harmonia were joined by another legend, Brian Eno.
At the studio in Forst, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Dieter Moebius, Michael Rother and Brian Eno spent eleven summer days recording what was meant to be their third album. The working title was Harmonia ’76. However, by then, “Michael Rother was wanting to concentrate on his solo career. Once the album was completed, it became apparent Harmonia had run its course. It was evolution.” So Cluster returned to the studio to record their fourth album,
A New Cluster Album-Sowiesoso.
After “Harmonia ran its course, we returned to Cluster. We had never stopped being Cluster. We played live, but didn’t release a new album until Sowiesoso, in 1976, which we recorded in just two days.”
Despite being recorded in just two days, Sowiesoso found Cluster at their creative zenith. They had recorded an album of understated, beautiful, poignant and melancholy melodies, including Umleitung, Zum Wohl and Es War Einma. The arrangements are often minimalist, but always, cinematic. Sometimes, the music is evocative and atmospheric. Occasionally, there’s an air of mystery. Especially, Halwa, with its cinematic sound. Just like the rest of Sowiesoso, the music paints pictures. That was the case in 1976, and is the case in 2016.
When Sowiesoso was released in 1976, it was on Günter Körber’s Sky Records. It had been formed in 1975, and by 1976, was already regarded as a label that released ambitious, influential and innovative music. This described Cluster’s first album in four years. However, Sowiesoso was a very different album to Zuckerzeit.
That was no surprise to those familiar with Cluster’s music. They were like musical chameleons, constantly reinventing their music. The musical chameleons were about to enter a three year period where Cluster could do no wrong.
Enter Brian Eno.
In June 1977, the two members of Cluster were joined by three old friends. The first was Holger Czukay of Can. “Dieter and I knew Holger from way back, back to Zodiak Free Arts Lab. We hung around with members of Can. Back then, there was a great sense of community. Everyone helped and influenced each other. We even went on to tour together.” Another of the guest artists on Cluster’s 1977 album first met Dieter and Hans at a Cluster concert.
That was Brian Eno: “who Cluster jammed with in 1974. Brian joined us on stage, and we spent the second half of the concert jamming. That was how we first met Brian. Then in 1977, he joined as for the recording of Cluster and Eno. We learnt a lot from Brian. Similarly, I like to think we influenced him. That was the case when we recorded After The Heat.” Before that, Cluster and Eno was recorded.
Cluster and Eno.
The four great innovators got to work. They spent part of June 1977 recording enough for two albums. Conny Plank laid down bass lines, while Dieter and Hans-Joachim Roedelius played synths and keyboards. So did Brian Eno who added bass and vocals. Once the recording session was complete, the first collaboration between Cluster and Brian Eno was released later in 1977.
When Cluster and Eno was released later in 1977, the album was a meeting of minds. Elements of both Cluster and Brian Eno’s music melted into one. Cluster supplied elements of avant-garde, while Brian Eno’s supplied the ambient influence. When this was combined with drone and world music, the result was another classic album.
Widespread critical acclaim accompanied the release of Cluster and Eno. It was hailed a groundbreaking album, one that was way ahead of its time. Cluster and Eno is an album that Hans-Joachim Roedelius: “is proud of.” He remembers the recording sessions fondly, and sees both Cluster and Eno, and its followup After The Heat, as an equally “influential album.”
After The Heat.
Just a year after the release of Cluster and Eno, the second collaboration between Cluster and Brian Eno was released. It too, was released to critical acclaim. This fusion of ambient, art rock, avant-garde, experimental and Krautrock were combined by Cluster and Brian Eno. Again, both Cluster and Brian Eno were influencing each other.
“This was not one way. We both influenced each other. On After The Heat, I believe we influenced Brian’s production style. If you listen to David Bowie’s Low and Lodger albums which Brian Eno produced, Cluster and Harmonia’s influence can be heard. So while Brian influenced Cluster, we certainly influenced him.” After two albums with Brian Eno, Cluster’s next album saw them return to a duo.
The Return Of The Cluster.
Following two albums with Brian Eno, Cluster returned to the studio in 1979. This time, Cluster were joined by Peter Baumann of Tangerine Dream. He would produce Grosses Wasser, Cluster’s seventh album.
It was an album where Cluster drew inspiration from ambient, art rock and avant-garde to electronica and free jazz. The result was music that’s ambitious, challenging and experimental. Other times, the music becomes ethereal, elegiac, melancholy and cinematic. Sometimes, though, Cluster throw a curveball like on Breitengrad 20, and a track changes direction. This adds to avant-garde sound of Grosses Wasser.
When Cluster released Grosses Wasser later in 1979, it proved to be Cluster’s most avant-garde album. “This wasn’t a conscious decision. Instead, it was just a case of evolution. That was the way that the Cluster worked. It was the same live.” That became apparent on Cluster’s first live album.
Live In Vienna.
Despite releasing seven studio albums, Cluster had never released a live album. That changed when Cluster took to the stage at the Wiener Festwochen Alternativ, on June 12th, 1980. It was the only time that Cluster took to the stage with Joshi Farnbauer. The result was one of Cluster’s most experimental albums.
Sometimes, the music veered towards discordant, and was reminiscent of early performances by Kluster. Hans-Joachim Roedelius remembers: “a song was just the starting point. We never knew what direction it would take. It was improvisation at its purest. Partly, it was because we couldn’t replicate our music live.” That was the case on, Live In Vienna, which featured Cluster at their most ambitious and inventive. However, just like Harmonia four years earlier, the end was nigh for Cluster.
Cluster recorded their ninth album Curiosum in 1981. Recording took place at Hamet Hof, in Vienna, which was now Hans-Joachim Roedelius adopted home.
At Hamet Hof, Cluster recorded seven tracks. Some were relatively short by Cluster standards. Given the title, the seven tracks on Curiosum were somewhat unorthodox. However, they were unusually melodic. It was a fitting way to end chapter one of the Cluster story.
Just like Harmonia, “Cluster had run its course. We decided to concentrate on other projects. There was no fall-out, Cluster just came to a natural end. After eight studio albums, Cluster was over. Or was it?
Cluster was put on hold until 1991, when Apropos Cluster was released. As the Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius partnership entered its third decade, Cluster released their ninth album Apropos Cluster.
Recording of Apropos Cluster had taken place between 1989 and 1990. with Cluster seeming to pick up where they left off on Curiosum. The music was similar structurally, stylistically and sonically. The only difference was the rhythm nature of Curiosum was absent. Instead, the music was understated, as ambient, avant-garde and Berlin School combined on the five tracks. This includes four short tracks and the title-track, Apropos Cluster a twenty-two minute epic. It was a fitting swan-song to what was a very welcome addition to Cluster’s discography.
Four years after the release of Apropos Cluster, One Hour was released in 1995, and became Cluster’s tenth album. Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius. It was one of the most ambitious albums of the second part of Cluster’s career.
To record One Hour, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius had returned to their experimental roots. They headed into the studio and for four hours, improvised. When the recording session was over, the two members of Cluster began to edit the music in one flowing piece of music that lasts One Hour. This was the longest album of Cluster’s career.
When One Hour was released, the album was presented as one continuous piece of music. For the CD version, the album became eleven tracks. They’re a mixture of avant-garde, Berlin School, classical, electronica and experimental music. The way the tracks are presented, they flow, meander and build, their eclecticism continuing to captivate. One Hour found favour with Cluster critics and fans old and new. Thirty-four years after making their recording debut, Cluster were still relevant. That would continue to be the case.
Two years after the release of One Hour, Cluster returned in 1997 with their second live album, Japan 1996. It had been recorded during June 1996
By then, Cluster’s music was belatedly finding the wider audience it so richly deserved. Especially among a new generation of music fans. They realised how innovative and influential Cluster’s music had been. Many electronic musicians who came to prominence during the nineties, cited Cluster as an influence. So when Cluster toured, they were greeted by a new generation of fans. They joined their loyal fans during Cluster’s 1996 Japanese tour.
Among the venues Cluster would player, were On Air West Tokyo and at Muse Hall and Club Quattro in Osaka. These concerts were recorded, and later, would become Japan 1996.
Cluster’s second live album apan 1996 was released in 1997. It featured ten tracks that showcased Cluster at their most inventive and innovative. So would their third live album.
First Encounter Tour 1996.
Two live albums became three when First Encounter Tour 1996 followed later in 1997. This time, the genre-hopping First Encounter Tour 1996 featured recordings from Cluster’s 1996 North American tour.
During that tour, Cluster moved seamlessly between musical genres during each performance. Each night, Cluster switched between ambient or avant-garde to electronic or experimental music and even Krautrock. They veered from ambient and melodic to atmospheric as Cluster improvised. The resultant music owed more to Cluster’s later music. It seemed that Cluster took Grosses Wasser as a starting point and the result was the thirteen tracks that became First Encounter Tour 1996.
They’re named after the city where they were recorded in. An example was the thirty-three minute epic New York City. It was part of Cluster’s first double album which just like Cluster’s 1996, flowed seamlessly and took the listener on a journey that ebbed and flowed. However, after two albums in less than a year, it would be the next millennia before Cluster returned.
It wasn’t until 2008, when Cluster returned with the fourth live album of their career, Berlin 07. By then, Cluster had been making music for forty-six years. They had enjoyed unrivalled longevity. Their career began in 1969 when Kiluster were formed. That same time, Kraftwerk were formed. However, by 2008, Kraftwerk were reduced to an occasional touring band, who neither recorded nor released albums. That was unlike Cluster.
They were still touring and were even contemplating recording a new album. This sudden burst of activity began after Cluster played at the Kosmische Club, in Camden, London, earlier in 2007. It was the first time Cluster played had live since 1997.
Since then, Dieter Moebius and Michael Rother had toured extensively as Harmonia, Meanwhile, Hans-Joachim Roedelius concentrated on his solo career. However, taking to the stage with his old friend Dieter Moebius as Cluster, had whetted the two friends’ appetite to play future concerts.
This included a concert in the city where the Cluster story began, Berlin. The concert was scheduled for November 2007. This would the first time Cluster had played in Berlin since 1969. Kluster and then Cluster had recorded a lot of music since then. However, as Cluster rolled back the years, they drew inspiration from their most recent solo work. Elements of avant-garde, electronic, experimental and techno were combined by Cluster, as continued to push musical boundaries. This had been the story of their career, and was the story of their Berlin comeback concert. It was released the following year as Berlin 07.
When Berlin 07 was released in 2008, it was on Conrad Schnitzler’s Important Records. This was fitting, as Conrad Schnitzler had been a member of Kluster, which was the first chapter in the Cluster story. It had come full circle. Buoyed by the success of their comeback, the two members of Cluster decided to record a new album. The cluster story continued.
Cluster-A Return To The Studio.
In 2009, Cluster returned with their twelfth album, Qua. This was the first studio album Cluster had released since One Hour in 1995. During that period, music might have changed, but Cluster remained relevant. They continued to innovate and release timeless music.
Qua was released in 2009 , some forty years after Kluster were founded. It was released to widespread critical acclaim, and featured fifteen understated, spartan soundscapes. They were atmospheric, cinematic and elegiac, and also dreamy, ethereal and pastoral, as Cluster combined elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica and experimental music. The genre-melting Qua was a welcome return from Cluster. Sadly, it also proved to be their swan-song.
Six years later and after a brave and lengthy battle against cancer, Dieter Moebius died on 20th July 2015. The man who had collaborated with Hans-Joachim Roedelius on some of his greatest and most ambitious musical triumphs had passed away. “After a lifelong friendship, losing Dieter has left a void. We were friends since 1969, and spent a lifetime making music. Many a month we spent on the road, talking, and enjoying friendship as the kilometres passed by. We travelled the world together, and enjoyed every minute. So losing Dieter has come as a shock, albeit it was expected. However, I have great memories of a great man, and a great friend, who I’ll never forget.” Nor will anyone who loves Krautrock . They too, mourned Dieter Moebius’ death, but forever his memory will live on through his music.
This includes the music Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius recorded as Cluster. They were one of the most important, influential, and innovative bands of the Krautrock era. That’s why nowadays, Cluster sit at the top table of Kominische alongside Can, Neu! Harmonia and Kraftwerk. Just like each of these groups, Cluster were musical pioneers, who created music that was innovative and influential. However, like many musical pioneers, Cluster’s music was ahead of its time. As a result, Cluster never received the commercial success and critical acclaim in their own country. Instead, Cluster were more popular abroad. Nowadays, as a man once said, the time they are a changing.
Somewhat belatedly, Cluster are being recognised for being musical pioneers, who released ambitious, groundbreaking and timeless music. It has gone on to influence several generation of musicians. They cite Cluster as one of the bands who influence and inspired them. That will continue to the case as the music Cluster made was timeless.
There’s a reason for this. Cluster weren’t afraid to push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond. Musically, Cluster were willing to go, where others musicians feared to tread, This paid off, and Cluster released twelve studio albums and four live albums between 1971 and 2009. These albums of groundbreaking and genre-melting music document the Cluster story,
Four Decades Of Making Music: The Cluster Story.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Seventies Heyday.
The seventies were a golden age for rock music. Especially progressive rock. One of the giants of British progressive rock were Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They were formed in 1970, and went on to enjoy commercial success and critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. That was the case right up until Emerson, Lake and Palmer split-up in 1979
By then, Emerson, Lake and Palmer had amassed nine consecutive gold discs in America. Just like Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were more popular in America, than they were in Britain.<
In Britain, two of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s albums were certified gold, while another was certified silver. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were just the latest band to be under appreciated in their home country. That was a great shame.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer were without doubt, one of the most ambitious and innovative of the British progressive rock bands. They released seven groundbreaking studio albums, where they pushed musical boundaries to their limits. That’s not forgetting the two live albums, Pictures At An Exhibition and Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends… Ladies and Gentlemen. However, the Emerson, Lake and Palmer story began as the sixties gave way to the seventies.
The Emerson, Lake and Palmer story began back in in 1970. That was when Keith Emerson and Greg Lake first met at the Filimore West, in San Francisco. Both of them were at a musical crossroads. Keith was a member of The Nice, while Greg Lake was a member of King Crimson. Nether Keith nor Greg felt fulfilled musically. So, the decided to form a new band.
This new band would feature Keith on keyboards, Greg on bass and a drummer. Their first choice for a drummer was Mitch Mitchell, who was without a band, after The Jimi Hendrix Experience split-up. They agreed to jam together. Then the music press heard about this jam session.
Rumours started doing the rounds that Jimi Hendrix was going to join this new supergroup. That put an end to the jam session. It never took place. Jimi Hendrix had never been asked to join the supergroup. Mitch Mitchell meanwhile, lost interest in the project. This presented a problem. Keith and Greg still didn’t have a drummer. Then Robert Stigwood, who was then the manager of Cream, suggested Carl Palmer’s name.
Carl Palmer was another experienced musician. He’d previously been a member of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. At that time, he was a member of Atomic Rooster. So Carl was approached. He was, at first, reluctant to leave Atomic Rooster, which he’d cofounded. However, when he spoke to Keith and Greg he realised that he could be part of something special.
Having left Atomic Rooster, he became the third member of the newly formed supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They made their debut at The Guildhall, Plymouth, on 23rd August 1970. Then on 26th August 1970, Emerson, Lake and Palmer stole the show at the Isle Of Wight Festival. This resulted in Emerson, Lake and Palmer being offered a recording contract by Atlantic Records.
Ahmet Ertegün the President of Atlantic Records realised the potential in Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Here was a band who wouldn’t just sell a huge amount of records, but could fill huge venues. So, not long after signing Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Ahmet Ertegün sent them into Advision Studios, London, where they recorded their eponymous debut album.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
At Advision Studios, Emerson, Lake and Palmer recorded ten tracks. They became Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Although this was meant to be the birth of a supergroup, the ten tracks on Emerson, Lake and Palmer came across as a series of solo pieces. However, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were a new band, who’d just recorded an eclectic and innovative album.
Although many people refer to Emerson, Lake and Palmer as prog rock band, they’re much more than that. Their music is eclectic. They draw inspiration from a variety of sources on Emerson, Lake and Palmer. This includes folk rock, jazz, psychedelia, rock and classical music. The classical influence is apparent on the opening track, The Barbarian and Knife Edge. Elsewhere, Take A Pebble finds Emerson, Lake and Palmer heading in the direction of jazz, with folk guitar and improvisation playing a part in this band workout. The Three Fates was the first three part suite Emerson, Lake and Palmer wrote and recorded. However, Lucky Man, a folk rock ballad was one of the album’s highlights, and kept until last. It found Emerson, Lake and Palmer experimenting.
This determination to experiment, is one of the reasons some of the music on Emerson, Lake and Palmer sounds futuristic. That’s in part to Keith Emerson’s use of the Moog synth. The result was a pioneering, innovative album that would launch Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s career.
When critics heard Emerson, Lake and Palmer, they hailed the album as innovative and influential. On its release in the UK in October 1970, Emerson, Lake and Palmer reached number four. Three months later, on New Year’s Day 1970, Emerson, Lake and Palmer was released in the US. It reached number eighteen in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Ahmet Ertegün, the President of Atlantic Records had been vindicated. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were on their way to becoming rock royalty.
It was a case of striking when the iron was hot for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They returned to Advision Studios, in London to record what became their sophomore album Tarkus. It was much more of a “band” album. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were now a tight, musical unit. This was very different from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, which was more like an album of solo pieces. Tarkus saw the birth of Emerson, Lake and Palmer as one of the giants of prog rock.
Tarkus was released in June 1971. That wasn’t originally the plan. Instead, Pictures At An Exhibition was meant to be Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s sophomore album. This was a live album which was recorded in March 1971. It saw Emerson, Lake and Palmer interpret Modest Mussorgsky’s opus Pictures At An Exhibition. it was a groundbreaking album. There was a problem though. Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s management didn’t agree. They weren’t sure that what essentially an interpretation of a classical suite was the direction Emerson, Lake and Palmer should be heading. So, Tarkus became the followup to Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
On its release in June 1971, critics realised that Tarkus marked a much more united Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They were well on the way to finding their trademark sound. Gone were ballads and jazz-tinged tracks. Instead, it was prog rock all the way. Record buyers loved Tarkus. It reached number one in the UK. Over the Atlantic, Tarkus reached number nine in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Emerson, Lake and Palmer had released the best, and most successful album of their career.
ing the commercial success of Tarkus, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s were keen to release Pictures At An Exhibition later in 1971.
Pictures At An Exhibition.
Three months before the release of Tarkus, Emerson, Lake and Palmer arrived at Newcastle City Hall, in Newcastle, England on the 26th March 1971. They were about to record their first live album, Pictures At An Exhibition. This was no ordinary live album.
Instead, Emerson, Lake and Palmer had decided to adapt Russian classical composer Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition. This was one of the first times classical music had been adapted by a rock band. That night in Newcastle, just four of the original ten pieces in Mussorgsky’s suite, along with the linking Promenade were recorded, They were performed live as one continuous piece, with new parts written by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. These new parts linked Mussorgsky’s original themes, which Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s played with enthusiasm and energy. Despite this, Pictures At An Exhibition was nearly never released.
It seemed that Pictures At An Exhibition was fated. Problems with their management meant that Pictures At An Exhibition’s release was delayed. It wouldn’t be until November 1971 the album was released. However, at one point it looked as if Pictures At An Exhibition wouldn’t be released. Atlantic Records were reluctant to release what was essentially a classical suite as an album. This they feared, wouldn’t sell well. So the project was put on the back burner, Suddenly, it looked unlikely that Pictures At An Exhibition would be released. That was until Tarkus was certified gold in America. All of a sudden, Atlantic had a change of heart,
Rather than release Pictures At An Exhibition on the main Atlantic label, a decision was made to release the album as a budget priced album. Atlantic Records it seemed were hedging their bets. That seemed a wise move when the reviews were mixed. Rolling Stone magazine was far from impressed with Pictures At An Exhibition. Neither was the self styled Dean of American Rock Critics, Robert Christgau, Despite this, Pictures At An Exhibition sold well.
When Pictures At An Exhibition was released in November 1971, it reached number three in the UK. In America, Pictures At An Exhibition reached number ten in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s third consecutive gold album. It was recently reissued as a two disc set, and features two live albums for the the price of one.
The first disc features the 2012 remaster of Pictures At An Exhibition, plus bonus tracks. This includes The Pictures At An Exhibition Medley, which was recorded The Mar Y Sol Festival Puerto Rico on 4th December 1972. Then on disc two which was remastered in 2o12, there’s another chance to hear Emerson, Lake and Palmer live. Five nights after they played in Puerto Rico, Emerson, Lake and Palmer recorded Live At The Lyceum Theatre, London on 9th December 1972. That night, Emerson, Lake and Palmer work their way through fifteen tracks. and in the process, show that live, they were becoming of the top progressive rock bands. Emerson, Lake and Palme were also one of the biggest selling progressive rock bands, and were about to enjoy release another successful album, Trilogy.
Just like previous albums, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were determined to push musical boundaries on Trilogy, their third studio album. Just like their two previous albums, Trilogy was recorded at Advision Studios, London. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were at their innovative best, recording progressive rock, but with a twist.
An example of this was the inclusion of Abaddon’s Bolero on Trilogy. Rather than the usual 3/4 rhythm a Bolero would have, it was turned into a march by using a 4/4 rhythm. Emerson, Lake and Palmer also pioneered the beating heart sound on Trilogy. Pink Floyd would use it to such good effect on Dark Side Of The Moon. So would Jethro Tull on A Passion Play and Queen on Queen II. This sound was first heard on Endless Enigma Part One. It came courtesy of Carl Palmer’s Ludwig Speed King bass drum pedal. Once again, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were demonstrating that they were one of the most innovative progressive rock bands. Their efforts were rewarded.
On its release in July 1972, Trilogy reached number two in the US. As usual, Emerson, Lake and Palmer enjoyed more success in the US. Trilogy reached number five in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in another gold disc for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. In the space of just two years Emerson, Lake and Palmer were one of the most successful progressive rock bands, and were had released what was their most ambitious album, Trilogy.
Trilogy features a band in the middle of the hottest streak of their careers. Incredibly, though things were about to get better for Emerson, Lake and Palmer though.
Of the three previous studio albums Emerson, Lake and Palmer had recorded, they complex, innovative, genre-melting affairs. Emerson, Lake and Palmer embraced the latest technology in what seemed like their quest for musical perfection. They also made use of overdubbing. This made their music difficult to replicate live. The band always felt they came up short live. So Emerson, Lake and Palmer set about recording an album they could replicate accurately live. This was Brain Surgery Salad.
Brian Surgery Salad.
Recording of Brian Surgery Salad took place between June and September 1973. Brain Salad Surgery was a fusion of prog rock and classical music. This is obvious straight away.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer adapted William Blake and Hubert Parry’s hymn Jerusalem and then Alberto Ginastera’s Toccata. Greg Lake wrote Still…You Turn Me On and then cowrote Benny The Bouncer and Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression with Keith Emerson and Peter Sinfield, one of the founding members of King Crimson. Keith Emerson penned Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression and cowrote Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 1 with Greg Lake also penned Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 1. These tracks were brought to life by Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their inventive best.
On Brain Salad Surgery, Keith Emerson played Hammond organ, piano, accordion and a myriad of synths. Greg Lake took charge of vocals, acoustic, electric, and twelve-string guitars. He also played bass guitar. Carl Palmer played drums, percussion, percussion synthesizers, gongs and timpani. Greg Lake produced Brian Surgery Salad, which was released in November 1973. Before that, critics had their say on Brian Surgery Salad,
Mostly, the reviews of Brain Salad Surgery were positive. However, the usual contrarian critics were’t as impressed. They seemed unwilling to recognise that Brain Salad Surgery was the finest hour of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s four album career. Brian Surgery Salad featured Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their tightest and loudest. Here was a tight, visionary band fusing prog rock, jazz and classical music. It was an ambitious, powerhouse of an album. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were at the peak of their creative powers, and record buyers on both sides of the Atlantic realised this.
When Brain Salad Surgery, was released in November 1973, it became Emerson, Lake and Palmer most successful album. It reached number two in the UK and number eleven in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in two more gold discs to add to Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s collection. They were well deserved though as Brain Salad Surgery was one of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s finest hours. This they followed up with another live album.
Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen.
After the release of Brain Salad Surgery, Emerson, Lake and Palmer embarked upon a lengthy and gruelling world tour. It began in November 1973, continued into the first half of September 1974. Night after night, Emerson, Lake and Palmer took to the stage and played a selection of songs from their first four studio albums. Some nights, the tapes were running and the concert was recorded. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were considering releasing another live album. It would be very different from Pictures At An Exhibition, which featured a selection of Modest Mussorgsky’s classic pieces.
This time around, Emerson, Lake and Palmer would get the opportunity to showcase their talents as songwriters. That hadn’t been the case on Pictures At An Exhibition. It would also allow record buyers to hear that live, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were versatile and accomplished musicians. They were equally comfortable playing live, and capable of replicating what was complex music live. That music Emerson, Lake and Palmer had recorded between 1970 and 1973. Some of this music would find its way onto Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen.
Each night of what seemed to be the tour that never seemed to end, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were improving as musicians. Review after review remarked upon this. Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen would document this.
Rather than record one or two shows, Emerson, Lake and Palmer ensured that tapes were running on a number of nights. This allowed them to cherry pick nine tracks, which included four suites. This included Tarkus, Take A Pebble. Piano Improvisations and Karn Evil. There was also the medley of Jeremy Bender and The Sheriff. Along with Hoedown, Jerusalem, Toccata and Take A Pebble (Conclusion), Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen was representative of the first three years of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s career. However, having chosen such lengthy tracks, Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen was going to be unlike most live albums.
Instead, Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen was a triple album. The nine tracks were spread across three LPs, and in the 2016 Remaster across two CDs. Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen which had been produced by Greg Lake, and scheduled for release in August 1974.
Before that, critics had their say on Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen. Critics were won over by Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen. Many critics expressed surprise that Emerson, Lake and Palmer were so accomplished live. So much so, that there was Emerson, Lake and Palmer eschewed overdubbing on Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen. It was live and uncut, and a true musical document of Emerson, Lake and Palmer live.
When Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen was released on 19th of August 1974, it reached number nineteen in Britain, and ten in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s sixth consecutive gold disc in America. Elsewhere, Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen reached the top ten in the Canadian, German, Finnish and Dutch album charts. The Emerson, Lake and Palmer success story continued. Or so it seemed.
Following the release of Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen, Emerson, Lake and Palmer decided to take a break to work on side projects and solo albums. Nothing was heard of Emerson, Lake and Palmer until 1976.
That’s when they reunited in Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland to record Works Volume 1, which was released on the 17th of March 1977. It was certified gold in America, Canada and Britain. The followup Works Volume 2, was released on 1st November 1977. Although it was certified gold in America, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s were no longer as popular. Sadly, that was the case with many progressive rock bands.
That had been the case since the birth of punk. The punks saw progressive rock as musical dinosaurs. They were the antithesis of everything that punk stood for. As punk and then post punk’s popularity grew, progressive rock’s popularity declined.
On 18th November 1978, Emerson, Lake and Palmer released Love Beach. This allowed Emerson, Lake and Palmer to discharge their contractual obligations to Atlantic Records. Although it wasn’t well received by critics, it was still certified silver in Britain and gold in America. However, Love Beach failed to reach the upper reaches of the charts. Love Beach proved to be Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s swan-song, and the band split-up shortly thereafter.
Nearly fourteen years later Emerson, Lake and Palmer returned on 27th June 1992 with Black Moon. Sadly, the album failed to reach the heights of their previous albums. It was a similar case with In The Hot Seat, which was released on 27th September 1994. In The Hot Seat failed to make an impression on the charts, and it was a disappointing way to end Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s recording career. It had spanned nine studio albums which were released between 1970 and 1994.
For many people, Emerson, Lake and Palmer released some of their finest music during the early years of their career. This includes their first four studio albums, 1970s Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 1971s Tarkus, 1972s Trilogy and 1973s Brain Salad Surgery. That’s not forgetting Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s first two live albums, 1971s Pictures At An Exhibition and 1974s Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends… Ladies and Gentlemen. These six albums feature Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their innovative and groundbreaking best.
That wasn’t surprising, given Emerson, Lake and Palmer were three of the most gifted and visionally musicians of their generation. They were able to seamlessly combine musical genres, and had been since their eponymous debut album.
On their first four studio albums, Emerson, Lake and Palmer flitted between prog rock, jazz and classical music, creating genre-melting music. This music was ambitious, complex and innovative. That was no surprise. Emerson, Lake and Palmer had always embraced the latest technology in what seemed like their quest for musical perfection.
To achieve musical perfection, Emerson, Lake and Palmer made use of overdubbing extensively. They added layer upon layer of instruments. The result were complex, multilayered, orchestral arrangements. The only problem was replicating the songs live.
This Emerson, Lake and Palmer soon realised was impossible. After several attempts to play these songs live, Emerson, Lake and Palmer realised there was no way they could play these songs live. Eventually, they gave up, and cut these songs from their set, as they embarked on extensive tours.
This included their eleven month 1973-1974 tour, which is documented on Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen. It found Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their most accomplished, as they toured North America and Europe. Several of these shows were recorded, and parts of these concerts found their way onto Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s a reminder of just how good a live band Emerson, Lake and Palme were.
After the release of Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen, Emerson, Lake and Palmer took a prolonged break. Sadly, Emerson, Lake and Palmer never reached the same heights.
By 1974, Emerson, Lake and Palmer had released the best music of their career. This included four cohesive studio albums and two live albums. Each of these albums were certified gold in America. However, it wasn’t just in America where Emerson, Lake and Palmer enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim.
Between 1970 and 1974, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were one of the most successful bands on both sides of the Atlantic. They also were popular in Canada, Europe and Australia. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were titans of progressive rock, who were already festival favourites and stadium fillers. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were well on their way to becoming one of the most successful progressive rock bands.
From 1970s Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 1971 Tarkus and Pictures At An Exhibition, 1972s Trilogy and 1973s Brain Salad, Surgery and 1974s Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen it seemed that Emerson, Lake and Palmer could do no wrong. They were one of the most successful bands of the progressive rock era. Their music was innovative, inventive and influential.
Even today, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s music continues to influence a new generation of musicians. Especially, the music Emerson, Lake and Palmer released between 1970 and 1974. During that period, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were a visionary band, who created what was without doubt, the best music of their career. The albums Emerson, Lake and Palmer recorded during that four year period, aren’t inventive, innovative and influential, but timeless, epic and ambitious that feature a group at the peak of their creative powers.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Seventies Heyday.
The Life and Career Of Karen Dalton.
Karen Dalton could’ve, and should’ve, been one of the most successful singers of her generation. She certainly had the talent. Her peers agreed. Bob Dylan described Karen Dalton as his favourite singer in his autobiography. He compared Karen’s voice to Billie Holliday, and her guitar playing to Jimmy Reed’s. Sadly, all this potential and talent never materialised into commercial success. Instead, the Karen Dalton story is a case of what might have been.
Karen Dalton was born Karen J. Cariker in July 1937, in Enid Oklahoma. Growing up, she learnt to play both the twelve string guitar and long neck banjo. She wasn’t just a talented musician, she was also blessed with a fantastic voice. By the early 1960s’ she had moved to New York.
Now living in New York, Karen Dalton was soon a mainstay of the Greenwich Village folk scene. Her friends included Fred Neil, whose songs she would later cover. Karen was also associated with various bands, including the Holy Modal Rounders. However, in 1961, Karen met one of the biggest names in folk music, Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan first encountered Karen Dalton in 1961. The pair would sing together a few time. Karen must have made a huge impression on Bob Dylan, considering his later compliments about her. However, it wasn’t just Bob Dylan Karen Dalton made a big impression on.
During the sixties, Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel of The Band also met Karen Dalton. She must have made an impression on the two men. Karen is thought to the inspiration for Katie’s Been Gone, a track on The Basement Tapes by The Band and Bob Dylan. Karen it seemed, was making an impression on some of the biggest names in music. Surely, it wouldn’t be long before Karen Dalton was recording her debut album?
It took until 1969, before Karen Dalton before Karen signed to a record company. It was worth the wait. She signed to Capitol Records, who would release her debut album later that year. By then, Karen had been a stalwart of the New York folk scene for eight years. She was more than ready to release her debut album. Karen was an experienced and talented singer.
It’s Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best.
Later in 1969, Karen Dalton released her debut album It’s Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best on Capitol Records in 1969. Many within Capitol Records had high hopes for Karen Dalton. When work began on It’s Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best Karen had chosen an eclectic selection of songs by a number of artists.
Two are written by Karen’s friend Fred Neil, Little Bit of Rain and Blues On the Ceiling. Another, How Did the Feeling Feel to You, is written by folk singer Tim Hardin. Two others, were blues songs. Sweet Substitute was written by Jelly Roll Morton and Down On the Street (Don’t You Follow Me Down) by Leadbelly. With such a diverse range of material, this allowed Karen to demonstrate how versatile her voice was.
Sadly, although It’s Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You the Best was well received by critics, the album wasn’t commercially successful. For Karen Dalton this was a huge blow.
To make matters worse, Karen was dropped by Capitol Records. Without a label, the future wasn’t looking bright for Karen Dalton. Her recording career had stalled after just one album. However, as the sixties became the seventies, Karen Dalton’s luck changed.
Michael Lang, the promoter of Woodstock, was also the owner of a record label, Just Sunshine Records. He realised and recognised Karen’s talent, and signed her to Just Sunshine Records. Work began on Karen Dalton’s sophomore album later in 1970.
In My Own Time,
For the recording of what became In My Own Time, no expense was spared One of the top studios of the time was chosen. This was the famous Bearsville Studios, near Woodstock, in upstate New York. It had been used by some of the biggest names in music, including Tim Buckley, The Band, Van Morrison and The Rolling Stones. With her band in tow, Karen headed to Bearsville Studios, where they met producer Harvey Brooks. He had previously played bass on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, and Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited would produce In My Own Time.
At the famous studios, Karen cut ten tracks. This album of cover versions and traditional songs became In My Own Time. It included covers of When A Man Loves A Woman and How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You). Among the highlights were covers of Karen’s arrangement of Katie Cruel, Dino Valenti’s Something On Your Mind and Are You Leaving For The Country, penned by Karen’s husband Richard Tucker. These songs became part of In My Own Time, which was released later in 1971.
Just like It’s Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You the Best, In My Own Time was well received by critics, but failed commercially. Lightning had struck twice for Karen Dalton. However, most people thought she would return with another album. Sadly, it never worked out like that.
After releasing just two albums, Karen Dalton’s musical career was all but over. She never entered the recording studio agin. There would be no followup to In My Own Time. Karen was lost to music and became a troubled soul. She became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and bravely and valiantly, fought her addictions.
Her life spiralled out of control, with Karen becoming increasingly dependent on drink and drugs. It was Karen’s way of taking the pain away. On at least one occasion, Karen overdosed. There was an inevitability that the Karen Dalton story wasn’t going to end well.
By then, Karen was in self-destruct mode. She was taking heroin, and at one point, it has been alleged that Karen and her boyfriend resorted to dealing to feed her habit. Karen had fallen a long way. Old friends who met her, almost didn’t recognise her. She was a very different person. Her lifestyle was taking its toll. When it seemed things couldn’t get any worse, they did.
In 1985, Karen was diagnosed with AIDS. Still she continued on a path to self-destruction. That’s despite the best efforts of her remaining friends, including country singer Lacy J Dalton.
Lacy first met Karen when she and her boyfriend were looking for a room to rent in New York. They were lifelong friends, with Lacy standing by Karen when things got tough. In 1992, in attempt to help her old friend, Lacy arranged to get her into rehabilitation in Texas. Before that, Karen wanted her cat to be brought from Pennsylvania. Lacy saw to this, and as an incentive for Karen to get clean, setup a recording session at the end of the rehab. It was all for nothing. Just a day later, Karen wanted to return to New York, where she was addicted to Codeine, which was prescribed by a dentist. For Karen, this latest addiction proved too much for her system.
Less than a year later, on March 19th 1993, Karen Dalton died. She was just fifty-five. At the time, it was rumoured that Karen had died on the streets of New York. That wasn’t the case. Instead, Karen Dalton died in the care of her old friend Peter Walker. She was only fifty-five, and had the potential to become one of the most talented singers of her generation.
As music mourned the loss of Karen Dalton, the obituaries referred to Karen as a singer. They never referred to Karen as a songwriter. Both of her albums, It’s Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You the Best, and In My Own Time featured a mixture of cover versions and traditional songs. Not once did Karen include one of her own songs. This lead people to believe that Karen Dalton wasn’t a songwriter.
After Karen Dalton’s death, two further albums were released. Cotton Eyed Joe was released by Delmore in 2007. It was a double album featuring live recordings from 1962. Then in 2008, Green Rocky Road, an album of songs Karen had recorded was released. Neither of these albums featured a song written by Karen Dalton. Critics concluded that Karen Dalton wasn’t a songwriter.
Four years after the release of Green Rocky Road, and Delmore discovered a collection of songs featuring Karen Dalton and her husband Richard Tucker. These songs were released by Delmore as 1966. Again, none of the songs on 1966 were penned by Karen Dalton. Critics felt this was irrefutable evidence that Karen Dalton wasn’t a songwriter.
That seemed a safe conclusion to draw. Twenty-nine years had passed since Karen’s death, and nobody was able to find evidence of a song she had written. This however, was all about to change.
Fellow musician, Peter Walker had been one of Karen’s best, and most loyal friends during her lifetime. He was there when she needed him most. After Karen’s death, Peter was given the job of administering her estate. It didn’t amount to much. Peter realised that, as he sorted through the various papers and files. This wasn’t, he thought, a lot to show for fifty-five years. Despite that, Peter was determined to do the best for his late friend.
Carefully and methodically, Peter Walker sorted through Karen Dalton’s estate. Much of his time was spent bringing order to the various papers and files. Within one of these files, were everything from appointments, right through to folk songs that Karen had previously transcribed. However, what caught Peter’s attention were poems and handwritten lyrics. It seemed that Karen Dalton was a songwriter after all. Everyone was wrong.
Secretly, Karen had been writing lyrics. She had even got as far as adding chords to the lyrics. Given that there had been an upsurge in interest in Karen Dalton’s music, this was a discovery that Peter and Karen’s estate wanted to share with the world.
In October 2012, Peter Walker published a book called Karen Dalton: Songs, Poems and Writings. It was published by Ark Press, and was irrefutable proof that Karen Dalton wasn’t just a singer, but a singer-songwriter. Sadly, Karen had never got round to recording these songs. A rueful Peter thought that these songs would just become part of the Karen Dalton archive. They deserved to be heard Peter thought. That wasn’t possible though. The thought that Karen’s songs might never be heard, saddened Peter Walker.
Then one day when Peter was talking to his friend Josh Rosenthal of Tompkins Square Records. The pair had been friends for some time. They had often spoke about Karen Dalton and her music. Josh was already interested in the enigmatic singer. His interest had grown when he read Peter Walker’s book. So one day, Peter showed Josh Karen’s handwritten lyrics.
This was the holy grail of Karen Dalton’s estate. Although people had read the lyrics in the book, very few had seen the original. Josh was one of the privileged few. After seeing the original lyrics, Josh realised that the songs had to be sung from a woman’s perspective. So he sent a file featuring copies of the original lyrics to some of his favourite female artists, including Sharon Van Ette, Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams and Isobel Campbell. Josh and Peter knew this was a long shot. With the letters sent out, it was just a matter of waiting and hoping.
Eventually, Josh received replies from the artists. They had all been influenced by Karen Dalton’s music, and agreed to cover a song. So eleven artist entered the studio, and recorded the songs that became Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs By Karen Dalton. When the compilation was released, here was the proof that Karen Dalton wasn’t just a singer, but a songwriter too.
This was ironic, because from the release of her 1969 debut album It’s Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best, critics and cultural commentators had always commented on how Karen Dalton wasn’t a songwriter. The same comments were made when Karen Dalton released her 1971 sophomore album In My Own Time. These comments were still being made even when there was a resurgence in interest in Karen Dalton’s music. It was as if that by not writing her own songs, this made her less of a singer. Little did the critics and cultural commentators realise, that Karen Dalton had been writing her own songs all along.
Sadly, Karen Dalton never got the opportunity to record them. Instead, circumstances intervened, and Karen Dalton’s life began to unravel. After the release of In My Own Time in 1971, turned her back on music. She never again entered a recording studio.
There was chance of that. Karen Dalton was in the vice-like grip of addiction. Drugs and alcohol were the only way that Karen Dalton could dull the pain, and keep her demons at bay. Surely, things couldn’t get worse for Karen Dalton? Sadly, they did.
In 1985, Karen Dalton contracted AIDS. She was just forty-eight. This was a huge blow for Karen Dalton. Still, though, she bravely battled on. By then, most of her friends had drifted away. A few loyal friends remained, and were they were determined to help her. This included country singer Lacy J Dalton. She arranged for Karen Dalton to enter rehab in 1992. Alas, that wasn’t to be, and at the last moment, Karen Dalton had a change of mind. She returned to New York, where she had an appointment with a dentist. This proved to be the last straw for Karen Dalton.
When Karen Dalton visited the dentist, she was prescribed codeine by. It’s a powerful, and can be a highly addictive drug. Sadly, Karen Dalton quickly became addicted to codeine. This was just the latest substance that Karen Dalton had become addicted to. This was one addiction too many.
Less than a year later, on March 19th 1993, Karen Dalton died in the care of her friend Peter. She was just fifty-five, and could’ve, and should’ve, been one of the most successful singers of her generation. She certainly had the talent.
Despite her undoubted talent, Karen Dalton neither enjoyed the commercial success nor critical acclaim her music deserved. Maybe if Karen Dalton had been signed to a different label things might have different? Elektra Records which for a while, seemed to specialise in singer-songwriters, would’ve been the perfect label for Karen Dalton. She would’ve thrived, fulfilled her potential and had her music heard by a much wider audience. Sadly, that didn’t happen until later.
The resurgence of interest began just before Karen Dalton’s death in 1993. Before that, just a discerning group of musicians and music lovers flew the flag for Karen Dalton’s music. However, since Karen Dalton’s death, there’s been a huge upsurge in interest in her music. Both of her albums, It’s Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best and In My Own Time have been reissued. Somewhat belatedly, Karen Dalton’s music is receiving the recognition it so richly deserves,
That is no surprise. The music on Karen Dalton’s two albums, It’s Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best and In My Own Time is breathtaking in its beauty and truly captivating. Both albums feature a singer who was blessed with the ability to breath life, meaning and emotion into songs. This Karen Dalton seemed to do effortlessly on It’s Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best and In My Own Time. Sadly, these were the only albums Karen Dalton released during her all to brief recording career. This means It’s Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best and In My Own Time are Karen Dalton’s musical legacy, and a remainder of an artist who could’ve, and should’ve, become one of the most successful singers of her generation.
The Life and Career Of Karen Dalton.