Thursday, 26 January 2012

Satisfaction: 'one of the most exciting bands in Britain'

Horn-rock is a genre you rarely hear good things about, but it was big business between 1969 and 1971 or so. One of the best albums in the genre is the sole effort by Satisfaction, led by the hard-working Mike Cotton (who'd released an LP with The Mike Cotton Sound in October 1964 and gigged with the Beatles, but had no real success), aided by the excellent guitarist Derek Griffiths (formerly of the Artwoods) and bassist Lem Lubin (formerly of Unit 4+2). Listen here and here for evidence.

The band formed in May 1970. On August 8th the following article appeared in Music Now:

A week later, Music Now featured them again:

The following month they described their aims to Chris Welch in Melody Maker:

Their album was produced by the great David Hitchcock in September, and appeared in February 1971, as did a 45 pairing the non-LP Love It Is with Cold Summer. Here are the LP's front and back cover:

Decca placed this advert in the music press to promote it:

Reviewers were impressed. ‘A group we will be hearing more of,' wrote Disc & Music Echo on February 6th. 'On Satisfaction (interesting sleeve) the six-piece gives out a full sound as professional as any you’ll hear doing the rounds today.’ Record Mirror agreed, calling them ‘a good, tight band with some surprisingly sensitive vocal harmony moments. There are other moments where they veer into the world of the musically improbable, but no matter – the sounds herein are exclusively the sounds of Satisfaction.’ Melody Maker, meanwhile, went for broke: ‘Hang out more flags. Here’s a band we can be proud to proclaim. It’s a remarkable sound – adult, mature and convincing. The vocals are exceptional and the writing is also of a high standard.’

To promote the LP the band played numerous gigs, including an unlikely lunchtime session in a pub in Tottenham Court Road on February 19th:

Dennis Detheridge of Melody Maker was on hand, but wasn't overly impressed:

Reader Vincent Lawless of Sheffield was more enthusiastic, writing in as follows:

The answer to his question, unfortunately, was 'no'. Melody Maker ran another interview with Cotton on March 20th:

Though the article described Satisfaction as 'one of the most exciting bands in Britain', their final release (a non-LP 45 that appeared in July) sank without trace.

Belgian picture sleeve
Italian picture sleeve
Satisfaction split sometime in the autumn of 1971, with Cotton taking his horn section to the Kinks in time to make their Muswell Hillbillies LP, which appeared that November.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Jimmy Page: with compliments

Between 1971 and 1980, Jimmy Page lived at Plumpton Place in East Sussex, described by journalist Howard Mylett in 1972 as having 'over 50 acres, two tied cottages, beautiful lakes and a moat.'  He added that 'Page’s taste in art and decoration is not of the Ideal Home, glossy-magazine type; he has retained the original character of the house. The only conversion is a small recording studio upstairs. The stables house goats, chickens, artwork, a Range Rover, one of the legendary Cord American cars and a motorbike. He has expressed a wish to obtain some swans for the lake.’

Page was of course frequently away on tour in the 70s, but spent much of Led Zeppelin’s 1976-77 hiatus there, and was even known to jam in the village pub, the Half Moon. He painstakingly installed a home studio at Plumpton, and carried out the mixing for In Through The Out Door there. He moved out in 1980 after a local photographer named Philip Hale (aged 26) died of vomit inhalation during a party on October 24th 1979. The house was on the market for a while before changing hands again in 1985.

Had the guitarist corresponded with you during his tenure there, chances are it would have involved one of these:

Amazingly, the particulars of the house as viewed by Page can be seen here.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Joe Harriott: 'no set pattern'

I thought I'd post the only interviews I've ever seen with this magnificent Jamaican saxophonist, who pioneered free jazz and recorded some of the most adventurous and imaginative music of the 1960s. The first of them is from Down Beat of September 10th 1964. At that time Harriott's career was in good shape. He was busy on Britain's thriving jazz circuit, he had recorded four well-received (if low-selling) albums - Southern HorizonsFree Form, Abstract and Movement - and had his groundbreaking Indo-Jazz Fusions collaboration with John Mayer ahead of him. Valerie Wilmer, who knew him well, examines the progress of his approach and style in detail, and there are several illuminating remarks from the great man:

The second interview appeared in Melody Maker of October 14th 1967, when Harriott's innovative collaboration with John Mayer was in full swing:

By the time the third interview appeared, in Melody Maker on February 6th 1971, times had become hard for Harriott, who was scratching an existence playing in regional pubs - a ludicrous ignominy for such a proud and gifted musician. No substantial recordings by him had appeared since August 1969 (his mighty collaboration with Goan guitarist Amancio D'Silva, Hum Dono), and though he speaks tantalisingly of a forthcoming album to be entitled Collage, it never happened. Joe Harriott died of cancer in the Wessex Radiotherapy Unit on January 2nd 1973. Penniless, peripatetic and obscure, he was only 44. 

For good measure, click here to see the only known footage of him.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Anno Domini: 'more than interesting"

Led by David 'Tiger' Taylor (formerly of Belfast psych-poppers Eire Apparent), this short-lived folk-rock trio were one of many decent bands signed by Decca at the start of the 70s, but doomed to commercial failure. This interview appeared in Melody Maker on January 23rd 1971:

Their sole 45 was issued in Ireland, France and Germany, but not in the UK. Here are a couple of picture sleeves:
Though Melody Maker had reported that On This New Day would be out in February, it didn't appear until May:

The press was not kind. ‘Apart from covering So You Wanna Be A Rock N Roll Star (and not very well) they tend to fall into the trap of sounding insipid,' blasted Melody Maker on the 29th. 'Two tracks, Badlands Of Ardgurth and Hitchcock Railway, give a hint of what they are capable of, but in all it’s a bad pick of material, not very well produced and shoddily put out in the usual chip-paper Deram sleeve. Shame.’ Sounds were unmoved too, commenting on August 21st that ‘Anno Domini show their roots pretty clearly, and though they do most of their things well, the album doesn’t exactly have what you might call a startlingly original creative standpoint. Still, it is a first album. Maybe by their third...’

Of course, no second album appeared, let alone a third. The band soon split, and Taylor went on to join The Freshmen, one of Ireland's most popular showbands.

Syd Barrett: 'a lot of ideas I want to explore'

I'm not sure whether this (very brief) interview with Syd has ever been reprinted, so here goes. It's from NME of March 14th 1970.

And here, for good measure, are two UK press ads for his two solo albums, from December 1969 and October 1970 respectively.

Hunter Muskett: 'a good first album'

If it's gentle, unassuming but technically excellent acoustic music you like, then you need to hear Hunter Muskett's first album, which briefly appeared on Decca's budget Nova imprint in October 1970. It's quite wimpy, but at its best - as on these two tracks - I like it very much.

Contemporary reviewers were a little harsh, though. ‘Their folk songs come out halfway between Settlers-style folk and the real thing,' sniffed Melody Maker on October 17th. 'The trouble with groups like Hunter Muskett is that they strive for perfection, and in doing so the music loses its sense of fun. The three-piece group’s harmonies are fine, so is the guitar-playing, their songs are musically and lyrically good, but that X-plus is missing.’ Sounds was kinder a week later, calling the LP ‘gentle, unstartling stuff with warm cellos and guitars and sad, rather nostalgic lyrics,' and adding that 'lyrics seem one of their strong points. Praise too the gentleman who did the strong, arrangements hovering in the background.’ On November 14th, however, Disc put the boot in, branding them ‘a gentle country-folkish group. Competent if a little inspid.’ Sales were commensurately low.

Here's the only article about them I've seen from the time of the album (their fine self-titled follow-up appeared in March 1973), from Melody Maker of January 2nd 1971:

Thursday, 12 January 2012

High Tide: 'some incredibly powerful music'

Led by Tony Hill (one of the two great guitarists to play with cult faves the Misunderstood), The short-lived High Tide were perhaps the most unlikely band to have recorded for Apple, though the demos they made with Peter Asher in early 1969 remain unheard. Those who saw them live say the experience was overwhelming. They were billed as 'the heaviest band in the world' that autumn, but their brand of vicious hard rock (with extensive electric violin and guitar duels) was never going to catch on, and their two albums sold dismally. 

I've seen precious little about them in the contemporary press, but what I have is here. Firstly, however, here are the details of their three BBC radio sessions:

As far as I'm aware, these have never been released either. Sometime in the summer of 1969 they backed South African expat Denver Gerrard (formerly half of hippie duo Warm Sounds) on his solo album Sinister Morning, which limped out on Deram Nova in March 1970. He returned the favour by producing their debut at around the same time. Here's an article from issue 4 of ZigZag, dated August 1969:

In the same month they played at a gig to raise money for the magazine:

Sea Shanties appeared in September 1969. Here's a press ad for it:

At its best, it's simply amazing, as on the track here, but reviewers were nonplussed by the music's sheer aggression. 'For those that dig noise, this is ideal', ventured Record Mirror on September 13th. 'Great crashing guitar and lots of bended, freaky sounds everywhere.' Melody Maker were more direct on October 4th, branding it 'prolonged monotony. High Tide – low ebb!'

The latter apparently badly demoralised the band, who decamped to Puddletown in Dorset after playing a few more gigs, such as this one:

In Puddletown LSD and yoga dominated their schedule. Nonetheless, they managed to tape a second, self-titled LP, which appeared in October 1970.

Melody Maker remained unimpressed, commenting on the 24th that 'the band does not come up with enough varied musical ideas to sustain the original concept, and the lack of harmonic invention ultimately detracts from one’s appreciation'. Sales were again slow, but on December 5th Melody Maker ran a somewhat more positive piece, containing the surprising news that they were big in Italy:

It was too little too late, however. Dire poverty was affecting them, as were drummer Roger Hadden's mental problems, and by the end of the year they were no more.

Maggie Bell v. The Stooges

Every week Melody Maker ran a feature called Blind Date, in which a well-known musician reviewed new singles or album tracks, without being told who they were by. They would make a fascinating book, but for now here's what Maggie Bell had to say about the Stooges on December 26th 1970 (the super-rare UK edition of Fun House had just been released).

Incidentally, the shows she mentions Stone The Crows sharing with the Stooges were at the Ludlow Garage in Cincinatti on March 13th and 14th 1970.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Jeff Simmons: 'the least celebrated of all the Mothers'

Here's the only article I've ever encountered about the mysterious Jeff Simmons, who recorded two albums for Frank Zappa's Straight label, Naked Angels and Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up, both of which appeared in August 1969. It's taken from Melody Maker of December 5th 1970.

Sam Apple Pie: 'a happy bunch of lads'

I thought I'd post some odds and ends relating to this strange London blues-rock band, whose debut album appeared in October 1969. It's pretty formulaic, but this track is pretty nifty. Here's the original press ad for the LP:

And here's a bizarre early press release, penned by Melody Maker's Chris Welch:

This is another press release, sent out by their management in the summer of 1970, stressing that they 'have progressed far and beyond their original blues grounding' (translation: they were keeping abreast of trends and eager for gigs).

And finally, here's an interview with the band that appeared at the end of the year:

Somewhat surprisingly, a later, glam-rock incarnation of Sam Apple Pie released a second album in March 1973, entitled East 17. It isn't very good.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Demon Fuzz: 'pure rhythmic funk'

To these ears the best thing about Demon Fuzz is their name, but their album (released in November 1970) isn't bad. It just not as radical and confrontational as I'd hoped, and bloated by aimless soloing. They're yet another band that got next to no publicity, so I thought I'd post the only interview with them I've ever seen, which appeared in Melody Maker on November 21st 1970.

Incidentally, they recorded a second album in 1972, Roots & Offshoots, which mysteriously appeared in 1976 on the tiny Brooklyn-based Paco label (its name being a contraction of Paddy Corea, the band's leader). I've never heard it, but here's the cover:

Finally, here's an agency flier from around the same time:

Fire: 'basically aimed at children'

Record Mirror, Dec. 14th 1968
Father's Name Is Dad by Fire is one of the great lost singles of the late 60s (March 1968, to be precise), but its November follow-up, Round The Gum Tree, is just as silly as its name suggests. A couple of years passed before they made an album, the extremely rare Magic Shoemaker (released in September 1970), which bizarrely  combines a badly narrated children's story with freaky music, ensuring that neither audience would enjoy it. That said, I like it more than the critic for Sounds, who wrote on November 7th: 'It is difficult to treat this album as a serious musical exercise. The sleevenotes declare that it is ‘a sample of the best in British progressive music’. It is anything but that.’ Beat Instrumental was no kinder, saying it was 'too shrill and grating for easy listening, and tends to irritate after only a few tracks.’ Nonetheless, it contains some nifty late psychedelia, as on the track here (ignore the opening narration if you can). Here's an ad for it:

As with most such records, next to no publicity was forthcoming; here's the only piece of press I have ever seen relating to them, from Melody Maker of September 19th 1970.