Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Help Yourself: pioneers of the West in the head

It's puzzling that Help Yourself aren’t better-known. In Malcolm Morley they had one of the UK’s better songwriters, and in Richard Treece one of its best and least showy guitarists. At a time when progressive excess and trashy glam ruled the charts, they consistently produced melodic, thoughtful and unpretentious music, yet to this day they are sadly under-appreciated. 

They got together towards the end of 1970, and were gigging by January 1971, when the live ad above appeared in Melody Maker. Between 1971 and 1973 they issued four fine albums (five, if you count Happy Days, the bonus disc that came with their last LP). Their debut was released in the UK only in April 1971, and is more West Coast-inspired than most British recordings of its era. Here's the appealing sleeve, designed by the mysterious 'Jeff of Ello Mum':

Despite a clear Neil Young influence, the album shows no desire to be hip or trendy, which accounts for a large part of why it stands up so well today. Their subsequent records have more prominent rock / jamming elements, but here the emphasis is on good-natured pop and ballads, and I like it very much. Here's the press release Liberty sent out with promo copies:

And here's the accompanying biography of the band itself:

A single was extracted from the album, but must have sold very poorly, as the copy I own is the only one I've ever heard of. Both sides, incidentally, are the same as the album versions:

A lovely half-page advert was taken out for the album in the music press, designed by the same artist who drew the front cover, credited only as 'Jeff Of 'Ello Mum':

On May 15th Record Mirror reviewed a gig at the Roundhouse, which found them supporting (of all people) Deep Purple:

Barely any reviews seem to have appeared, though Melody Maker did run an interview with the band in their May 29th 1971 issue:

Record Mirror also ran a short piece on May 29th:

ZigZag magazine was a champion of Help Yourself from the start, and as such they ran a lengthy profile of them in their May 1971 issue, which I hope no one will mind if I reproduce here:

Help Yourself also backed Ernie Graham on his fine album, which was released in April 1971 too, and about which I have put some similar material in another post. 


  1. The Helps are good friends of mine. I met Ken and Malcolm when they came to SF with Man. Treece has played with my band Donovan's Brain. He's on most of our albums too. Malc and Ken have also played on our albums. They are amazing musicians. Malc is simply one of the great song writers of our time. His solo albums are both very good. Apparently he's working on another.

  2. http://ivegotmyownalbumtodo.blogspot.com/31 October 2010 at 18:52

    Thanks for such a nice piece on the Helps...they did seem to fly under the radar and were quite breathtaking live in their casual laid back manner until Richard Treece embarked on one of his epic acid guitar journeys.

  3. I very much enjoyed this piece on one of my favourite bands, overlooked by most but remembered with warmth and affection by a few. The recently released Zigzag gig cd set captures them really well. It's a great package incidently.

  4. I'm deeply shocked that Mark Ellen had never heard of the Helps.