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TDATS 112: A Limey In The Ranch Of The Rodeo King [UK Country and Southern Rock] by Rich Aftersabbath on Mixcloud
The completion of this comp was triggered by a band I discovered quite recently called Heads Hands & Feet. They were an English act based in London, that were around for a few short years. They specialised in good-time bar room blues and US style country rock, similar in places to Lynyrd Skynyrd but with more focus on honky-tonk (stay with me) and country, not so much the hard rock, and they were an early band for renowned guitarist Albert Lee. I adored their honest, good-natured sound as soon as heard it, and it reminded me of a few other UK bands that had a similar thing going on. Thus the idea for this volume arose, and I hunted down some more UK-based acts that rocked in the finest of American tradition. I'm glad to say all these bands are new to TDATS, so making it has been a great pleasure and a complete learning experience.
01. Velvet Opera - Ride A Hustler's Dream / Statesboro Blues (1969)
from album 'Ride A Hustler's Dream'
02. Cliff Bennett's Rebellion - Amos Moses (1971)
from album 'Cliff Bennett's Rebellion'
03. Steve Gibbons - Bye Bye Buffalo (1971)
from album 'Short Stories'
04. Heads Hands & Feet - Hot Property (1971)
from album 'Tracks'
05. Legend - Moonshine (1971)
from album 'Moonshine'
06. Gypsy - Comes a Time (1972)
from album 'Brenda & The Rattlesnake'
07. Hookfoot - Tradin' Riffs (1973)
from album 'Roaring'
08. Poet And The One Man Band - Light My Fire And Burn My Lamp (1969)
from album 'Poet And The One Man Band'
09. Jellybread - Green Eyed Gypsy Queen (1972)
from album 'Back To Begin Again'
10. Pacific Drift - Just Another Girl (1970)
from album 'Feelin' Free'
11. Guitar Orchestra - Last Chicken In The Shop (1971)
from album 'Guitar Orchestra'
12. Ellis - Your Game (1972)
from album 'Riding On The Crest Of A Slump'
13. Cochise - Diamonds (1972)
from album 'So Far'
14. Holy Mackerel - The Boy And The Mekon (1972)
from album 'Holy Mackerel'
It's common knowledge that the US was shaken-up by the "British Invasion" pop of the 1960s. Early-on it was the Stones, The Beatles and The Who et al that were making big waves across the Atlantic. Then there were the English bluesrockers like Cream, Ten Years After and Led Zep who made more impact a little later. Of course, the majority of these UK acts owed their chops to blues, jazz, rock'n roll and other sounds that originated in the US. In general, it was an amazing time of rich cultural transactions and co-evolution in music. Something I was not fully aware of until recently was the following early '70s cultural return from the US to the UK, with a small uprising in US country rock appreciation that appears to have happened in the UK. It didn't last that long, as you can see from the narrow time frame of the tracks in this comp, 1969 to 1973. An interesting little observation before I go further, three tracks in this comp have turned out to have an indirect connection to Pink Floyd as you'll see - not the first name you'd expect, I wonder if it's got something to do with David Gilmour liking this kind of music? There's also a couple of links to Elton John of all people. Make of it what you will...
Having recently become acquainted with the likes of Heads Hands & Feet, Gypsy, Cochise, Hookfoot and Quiver (although not a band that would fit in a TDATS comp, Quiver guitarist Tim Renwick does appear in this comp), i'm surprised I hadn't run into many of them sooner. Maybe one of the reasons is that these bands have been largely passed-over, despite the fact that they included a lot of very talented players who were in other bands that received a lot more attention. Speaking of such, the lineups of the bands in this volume read a little like a who's who of British journeyman/session musicians. Although they may have not achieved long-term international fame, they were "musician's" bands and you can at least say that they were not motivated by commercial success, but doing what they did for the love of it. In fact, researching this has become something of an incredible adventure through the halls and archives British virtuoso guitarists that all missed the spotlight.
|Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera|
Ride A Hustler's Dream LP
|Cliff Bennett's Rebellion (Cliff in center)|
Personally speaking, the story of Heads Hands & Feet is a bit of a sad tale of missed opportunity that I find to be poignant. Still, the band was made up of seasoned musicians who's careers would continue without the band. They evolved from a studio-only band's record put out under the name of "Poet And The One Man Band", which was overseen by Tony Colton. By this point Tony had become an industry name. He was a band-leader, writer, arranger and producer who had made many of his contacts while frequenting The Flamingo Club in Soho, especially the Flamingo Allnighter on Friday nights. There's an incredible interview with Tony you can read here that recounts the many personalities that he was acquainted with.
Poet And The One Man Band, a band that Tony had gotten together as support for some of his clients. For instance, they played behind Shirley Bassey on her 5 million-selling album "Something". Variously they were Albert Lee (gtr), Jerry Donahue (gtr), Pat Donaldson (bass), John Bell (clarinet), Speedy Aquaye (percussion), Barry Morgan (drums), Peter Gavin (drums), Raymond Barry Smith (gtr) and Tony (lead vocals). A number of piano/organ players were involved: William Davies, Roger Coulam, Nicky Hopkins and Mike O'Neill. Track 8 in this comp is from Poet's album which was made in 1969.
Most of those names, with the addition of Chas Hodges, were to make up Heads Hands & Feet. Chas, from Edmonton, north London, had been in many beat bands by this stage, including Cliff Bennett's Rebel Rousers, and Joe Meek's house band The Outlaws (with Ritchie Blackmore). He also took part in the Green Bullfrog Sessions (See Vols 13 & 59) with a whole bunch of names including Albert Lee and Rod Alexander of Jodo (See tdats interview with Rod here). HH&F were snapped up by record labels, with their ready-made credentials and mass appeal which was seen as ripe for the US, they were reputedly offered the biggest advance in the history of rock, half a million dollars from Capitol in the US. In the UK they were on Island records. HH&F never realised their full potential, even though they made three albums proper, and after a faltering start they imploded within 4 years of forming. For fascinating details into the times, read the interview I mentioned previously.
|C.J. Flanagan and Tony Colton|
Legend. They originated in the coastal town of Southend, the traditional sea-side haunt for Londoners which also boasts the longest leisure pier in the world. I have taken a track from their third and final album which, in terms of country rock, is aptly-named "Moonshine". It's a brilliant stick of funky, groovy (seaside) rock.
|Legend - Moonshine LP|
Listening to them all, it's clear that no matter what they were playing, be it doo-wop, rock'n roll, pop or blues, their main priority was have fun! On the final album they went in for a sound of two halves, there were some of the most rocking songs they have done, in "Moonshine", "Captain Cool" and "Shine On My Shoes", and there were some big, sweeping, orchestrated ballads like "Another Guy", "Mother Of My Child" and "The Writer Of Songs". Never let it be said that pub rock bands like to be predictable or one track-minded. Legend disbanded in '72 and Micky started a solo band in 1975, which made albums and existed in various forms until the 2000's. In February 2009 the early Legend line-up of Chris East (guitar/vocals), Mo Witham (guitar), John Bobin (bass), Bob Clouter (drums) and Mickey self-released a new album, "Never Too Old To Rock", featuring a selection of Jupp–East songs written over the previous twenty years.
Brenda & The Rattlesnake LP
|Gypsy news cutting|
Caleb 2nd from left
|Caleb Quaye at Wembley stadium|
1975 with Elton John band
In 1982, Quaye became an evangelist and is now the National Worship Director for the Foursquare denomination, ministering throughout the United States, England and Europe. According to theguitarbuzz.com (link) Quaye was playing in a Jazz Rock Fusion band called The Faculty as recently as 2012 (youtube).
|Jellybread - Back To Begin Again|
|Pacific Drift - Feelin' Free LP|
The quartet’s debut single, a version of Spirit’s ‘Water Woman’, was followed by the 1970 self-titled album, "Feelin' Free". It had an eclectic mix of styles, jazzy pop to blues, and even a hint of country as on "Just Another Girl" that I used here. Below is a clip of them playing a half hour set for French TV, it starts with "Just Another Girl", sounding quite different to the record, with no lead guitar and no backing vocals.
Guitar Orchestra" while looking into the side-projects of Mick Grabham and Ray Fenwick. I tracked it down and have been knocked over by the quality of stella musicianship that it contains. The story is that guitarist Ray Fenwick (The Spencer Davis Group) and guitarist Mick Grabham (of Cochise, previously of Plastic Penny) met up one day through ex-Plastic Penny drummer Nigel Olsen, when he joined Spencer Davis Group.
Ray and Mick got on well straight away and soon formulated a plan, in the finest of '70s rock excess, to make a touring band and album dominated by many expert guitarists. Four lead guitarists were initially planned, but as it never amounted to a live entity, the multiple guitar layers and harmonies were over-dubbed by Ray and Mick. Mick claims that the idea was inspired by a 1962 LP called "Guitars'a Plenty", made by the George Barnes Guitar Choir (link). Also invited in were Dee Murray (Elton John Band) on bass and Tony Newman (May Blitz, Three Man Army) on drums. Vocals were mainly provided by John Gilbert of Cochise. Tim Renwick also guests on the album, he was mentioned at the beginning as a member of Quiver - on a small side note, Tim was a key supporting guitarist for Pink Floyd in all their shows since Momentary Lapse of Reason, up until Live 8, and a great job he did too. Dave Gilmour produced an early Quiver album, as one of his first production credits.
|Mike Grabham - Ray Fenwick|
Riding On The Crest Of A Slump
|Cochise - So Far|
|Holy Mackerel LP|
They got stitched-up by a dodgy producer, who released it as an album in the US without telling any of them, keeping all the profits to himself of course. He even made up the artwork, and the name Orang-Utan, for the sake of the cover. There is a little more on the subject in an interview with guitarist Mick Clarke at It's Psychedelic Baby magazine (link). The connection between Orang-Utan and Holy Mackerel is singer Terry Clark. Now, Terry Clark links another band to Holy Mackerel, Jason Crest. This was a singles-only late '60s psych band who made some average stuff in their time, up until a final acclaimed heavy single in 1969; A Place In The Sun / Black Mass (youtube). Vocalist Terry, Roger Siggery (drums) and Derek Smallcombe (guitar) were all members of Jason Crest, and they all moved on to form Holy Mackerel afterwards. The final associated act is Samuel Prody, an English band that included Derek Smallcombe, which recorded one album in Germany, that has some pretty good heavy stuff on it (youtube).
|Holy Mackerel band|
Well, that's the end of this one, thanks for reading and listening, and happy new year!