Monday, 24 November 2014

Midge Ure (Slik,Rich Kids,Visage, Ultravox, Band Aid)

James Ure was born in Cambuslang, in Lanarkshire in 1953. He attended Rutherglen Academy and left school at 15 to study engineering at college. James learned to play guitar and joined Stumble (c. 1969 – c. 1971) . He later became a guitarist for cover band Salvation in 1972 and performed at Clouds a Glasgow discothèque. There were too many Jimmys in the band and to avoid confusion band leader, Jim McGinlay christened James Ure's, ‘”Mij,” as in Jim backwards. The name stuck and in 1974 when Kevin McGinlay left to pursue a solo career, Midge Ure took lead vocalist as well as playing guitar. The band changed their name to Slik later that year and song writers Bill Martin and Phil Coulter provided the songs. They had a Number One single with "Forever and Ever" in 1976.

The band were keen to embrace Punk and went through lineup changes including renaming themselves PVC2. “Put You in the Picture” was released but the band quickly faded.

Ure then joined Glen Matlock (former Sex Pistol) in Rich Kids and moved to London. The lineup of the new wave band was Glen Matlock (vocals and bass), Rusty Egan (drums), Bill Smyth (vocals/guitars/keyboards), Steve New (vocals/guitars), and Midge Ure. During 1977 to 1978 the band released one album, Ghosts of Princes in Towers (produced by Mick Ronson), and three singles but commercial success eluded them. The band broke up in 1979.

Midge now playing synthesizer formed Visage with lead vocalist Steve Strange and signed briefly to Radar Records for the release of their first single "Tar". It failed to attract airplay and the band singed to Polydor Records in 1980, and released second single, "Fade to Grey.” It became a massive hit. Meantime in 1979, after Gary Moore left Thin Lizzy while the band was touring the US Midge briefly joined the lineup. He continued with the band to Japan and at the end of the tour left to pursue other projects. Ure continued to collaborate with Phil Lynott and co-wrote his biggest solo hit, "Yellow Pearl". The song became the theme to Top of the Pops (TOTPs). Midge left Visage in 1982.

Around this time Midge Ure, Billy Currie (keyboards, violin), Chris Cross (bass) and Warren Cann (electronic drums) resurrected a synthpop band called Ultavox. The title track of their first album Vienna was an instant hit in 1981. The album too became a best seller. The second album Rage in Eden also sold well. Despite the success of Ultravox Midge was also keen to reconvened Visage and recorded the band's second album, The Anvil. The third Ultravox album, Quartet, was produced by George Martin and featured four Top 20 singles. In 1987 Midge left Ultravox to establish his own solo career.

Midge’s first solo single was Tom Rush’s “No regrets” in 1982 and made the UK Top 10.

Two years later he co-wrote and helped produce the Band Aid single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" which has sold 3.7 million copies in the UK . Ure co-organised Band Aid, Live Aid and Live 8 with Bob Geldof. Ure acts as trustee for the charity, and serves as ambassador for Save the Children.

In 1985 he had a No. 1 solo hit with "If I Was" and his solo album The Gift reached No. 2 in the UK.

In 2009, Midge Ure and the other members reformed Ultravox for the Return to Eden tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Vienna album, followed up the next year with a second round of the tour. In late 2010 Ultravox started working on their sixth album Brilliant, fronted by Midge Ure. In November 2013, Ultravox was special guests on a four date arena tour with Simple Minds.

Please think about making a contribution Band Aid Thirty

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Davey Graham (1940 - 2008)

David Michael Gordon (Davy) Graham was born in 1940 in Hinckley, Leicestershire, England. His father was Scottish and his mother, Guyanese. David learnt to play the piano and harmonica as a child and took up the classical guitar at the age of 12. He enjoyed folk music and was inspired by folk guitarist, Steve Benbow. He was also influenced by American folk and blues men, like Big Bill Broonzy, Josh White, Brownie McGee and Jessie Fuller.

By the time he was 19 his mastery of guitar was recognized and he appeared in a Monitor (BBC) documentary, ‘Hound Dogs and Bach Addicts: The Guitar Craze.’ The program was produced by Ken Russell and Davy played an acoustic instrumental version of Cry Me a River.

In the same year he wrote "Angi" (or "Anji") which Alexis Korner encouraged him to record in 1962. The EP highlighted Davy playing double-string choruses which helped the emerging generation of players caught between Skiffle and R&B.

In 1963 he played with folkie, Shirley Collins on "Folk Routes And New Routes", for Decca.

Always a free spirit Davy travelled and when he was in Tangiers he developed a modal tuning system similar to that used on the oud (a pear-shaped stringed instrument). Then it was standard for guitar players to use EADGBE tuning i.e., the six guitar strings are tuned, from low to high. Davy used DADGAD (Open Dsus4) by tuning the first and sixth strings down a whole tone (two steps) which allowed him to explore the modal characteristics of traditional celtic music, like "She Moved Through The Fair".

He also experimented with the folk music of India and Morocco. Later DADGAD (Open Dsus4) became standard tuning system for many folk and some rock guitarists. Davy’s distinctive finger style acoustic guitar style also influenced many musicians. He released a string of albums during the sixties which highlighted his command of different and diverse genres. In modern folk music he became a seminal influence. Always unpredictable and increasingly unreliable he skirted with commercial success. After he started experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs his marriage to Holly Gwinn (Singer) broke up and he dropped out. Davy did charity work in Camden Town whilst scraping a living teaching acoustic guitar.

His friends encouraged him back to perform and he played with Bert Jansch, Duck Baker and Martin Carthy.

His last album, Broken Biscuits (2007) consisted of originals and new arrangements of traditional songs from around the world. A year later Davy Graham was diagnosed with lung cancer and died in 2008.

Worth a listen
Angi (1962)
Davy’s Train Blues (1962)
3/4 AD (1962)
Going Down Slow (1964)
She moved through the fair (1964)
Mustapha (1964)
I’m looking through you (1966)
Fakir (1966)
Babe, it aint no lie (1968)
Freight Train Blues (1968)
Good morning blues (1968)
Blue Raga (1968)
Afta (1970)
Panic (2007)
Blood Red Roses (2007)

Friday, 20 June 2014

Jim Diamond (1953 - 2015)

Jim Diamond was born in Glasgow in 1953. His father was a fireman and he attended St Mungo Academy, Glasgow. His first band was called The Method and he joined them when he was 15, later he played with Jade, a Glasgow band who moved to London. In the lineup was Chris Glen (bass and "The Sensational Alex Harvey Band") and Jim Lacey (lead guitar) who later joined The Alan Bown Set. Diamond left Jade to join Gully Foyle and toured Europe until he was discovered by Alexis Korner. For the next two years Jim Diamond was a member of the Alexis Korner Band.

He left in 1976 to form Bandit with Cliff Williams (ACDC) and signed for Arista Records. Their debut album failed to chart and Diamond left to join the Japanese band BACCO as their lead singer in 1979. Later he went to LA and formed Slick Diamond with Earl Slick to tour and perform. Back in the UK Jim linked with Tony Hymas (drums and former Jeff Beck Group) and Simon Phillips (piano/keyboard), to form PhD . The name came from the first initial from each of their surnames. The band signed to WEA Records and their debut album in 1981 contained the single "I Won't Let You Down." It peaked at number three in the UK Singles Chart in early 1982.

The follow up single "I Didn't Know," failed to chart in the UK but sold well in Europe. The group disbanded and Jim pursued a solo charting with ”I Should Have Known Better,” in 1984.

In 1986 he released his last top five hit, “Hi Ho Silver” (Theme tune from TV series Boon).

Jim Diamond continued to work and often features as a guest vocalist on other artist’s songs. Laterally Jim Diamond dedicated a lot of time to the Cash for Kids charity appeal in Scotland The singer died suddenly at his London home in 2015.

Worth a listen

I Should Have Known Better (1984)
Hi Ho Silver (1986)

Ph. D.
I Won't Let You Down (1982)

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Are Ye Dancin’?

Braw this ia a story of Scotland's dance halls by Eddie Tobin with Martin Kielty. Are Ye Dancin’? is published by Waverley Books and costs £9.99 ISBN: 978 1 84934 045 8

The first-ever inside story of how Scotland's ballrooms and dance halls remained a central part of Scottish culture throughout the 20th Century. Told by the people who made it happen: the dancers, agents, bands and staff. From Thurso to Portpatrick, Oban to Aberdeen, everybody always went up the dancing’. If you were lucky the answer to the eternal question was, “Are ye askin’?” If you weren’t, it was, “Naw, it’s just the way I’m standin’…” or worse. Packed with over 100 illustrations, the book takes a light-hearted look at Scotland’s favourite pastime throughout the years – from the start of the public dance halls to the recent explosion of ballroom popularity. Dancers and workers from all over the country share their hilarious and touching memories. The book covers dozens of the 600 halls which have hosted the nation’s big nights out – many of them tragically long gone.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Chris McClure (Christian)

Chris McClure was born in Ibrox in 1943 into a musical family. Chris never knew his father, an American entertainer called Chris Gill, but he was in show business and as a child, his mother Leanorra, taught Chris to dance and sing. Growing up he loved football but realized his real talent was performing and aged nineteen Chris joined The Fireflies and became their front man singer. Chris McClure and the Fireflies were a popular 60s Glasgow based group. They became known for their tight sound and vocal harmonies specializing in Tamla Motown and Soul music. They played throughout Scotland but were the resident band at the Flamingo after the Pathfinders and also the Picasso Club in Buchanan Street, Glasgow.

Despite their fabulous live performances their singles on the Polydor label including “The Answer to Everything” and “I’m Just a Country Boy” failed to make an impression in the UK charts.

When the group featured in the STV pop program called Stramash (1971) they changed their name to The Chris McClure Section.

The band continued to enjoy popularity in Scotland but as disco became popular live bands were less in demand. Chris McClure embarked on a solo career as Christian and was a very successful club act in Scotland.

He went on to become an actor and featured regularly in pantomime. In 2006 The Chris McClure Section reunited for occasional performances.

Worth a listen
The Dying Swan (1966)
I’m just a country boy (1967)
The answer to everything (1966)
Our song of love (1969)

Chris McClure Section
Your only passing time (1971)

Easy easy (1978)
Shine it on (1978)

Friday, 25 April 2014

Bert Jansch (1943 – 2011) (Pentangle)

Herbert Jansch was born in 1943 in Glasgow. He grew up in Edinburgh and learned to play the guitar as a teenager. His first guitar was made from a kit but he later got a "Lonnie Donegan guitar" (Zenith). Influenced by the blossoming folk music boom he hung around the Edinburgh folk clubs. Bert’s early influences were Anne Briggs, Clive Palmer, and Davey Graham.

He started playing one-night stands around the UK during which times he was exposed to a range of influences including Brownie McGhee and Big Bill Broonzy.

Between 1963 and 1965, he hitched around Europe earning a living by busking and casual musical performances in bars and cafes. When he came back to London in the mid 60s he had developed his own guitar style. This included a claw hammer style of right-hand playing combined with distinguished chord voicings. Another characteristic was his ability to hold a chord in the lower strings whilst bending an upper string.

In his songs he also fitted the accompaniment to the natural rhythm of the words of his songs, rather than playing a consistent rhythm throughout. Bert signed for Transatlantic Records, and had his first album released in 1965.

It sold 150,000 copies and included Jansch's "Do You Hear Me Now." Later Donovan included his version of the song on his Universal Soldier EP, which reached No. 1 in the UK EP chart.

In quick succession Bert brought out another two albums: It Don't Bother Me and Jack Orion.

The latter contained his first recording of "Blackwaterside."

Bert mixed with many gifted musicians and played at the main folk club venues in London. There he rubbed shoulders with Paul Simon, Davey Graham and John Renbourn. Renbourn and Jansch frequently played together and developed a style of intricate interplay which became known as the 'Folk baroque'. They recorded the Bert and John album in 1966 and became the resident musicians at The Horseshoe pub, 264-267 Tottenham Court Road.

This was a popular haunt for folkies in the UK and many would jam with the duo on stage. Eventually in 1968 the nucleus became Pentangle. The line up consisted of Jacqui McShee (singer), John Renbourn (guitar), Bert Jansch (guitar), Danny Thompson (string bass) and Terry Cox (drums). The group played jazz folk fusion and signed to Transatlantic Records.

The album, Basket of Light (1969) was a huge commercial success with Light Flight released as a single. The song was made popular after it was used as theme music for a TV drama series Take Three Girls (BBC). A year later, at the peak of their popularity, they recorded a soundtrack for the film Tam Lin, but their fourth album, Cruel Sister, was a commercial disaster and their popularity began dwindle.

Tired from touring and of working together the band fell out with Transatlantic, in a bitter dispute regarding royalties. They moved to Warner Brothers/Reprise for their final album, Solomon's Seal.

Pentangle broke up in 1972 after which Bert took a few years' break from music before returning in the late 1970s to work on a series of projects with other musicians.

He toured Australia, Japan and the US with a band called The Bert Jansch Conundrum and after the group broke up he recorded Heartbreak album with Albert Lee.

He also toured Scandinavia with Martin Jenkins before opening his own guitar shop in Fulham. Pentangle reformed in the early 1980s and Bert Jansch remained with them until 1995. The original band again reformed in 2008 and in 2011 to play concerts.

Bert continued as a solo artist until his death from cancer in 2011. Bert remains one of the more influential UK musicians who inspired many, many others including Donovan, Paul Simon and Neil Young.

Worth a listen
Do You Hear Me Now (1965)
Needle of Death (1965)
Angie (1965)
Blackwaterside (1966)
Birthday blues (1969)
Reynardine (1971)
Magdalina’s dance (2006)
Blues run the game

Sweet Child (1969)
Haitian Flight Song (1968)
Basket of light (1969)

Friday, 18 April 2014

Peter and Gordon (1945 - 2009)

Peter Asher was born in 1944 in Willesden, London and son of a doctor. He was a child actor and appeared in films, stage and radio as well as on The Adventures of Robin Hood (ITV). Gordon Trueman Riviere Waller was born in 1945 in Braemar Scotland and his father was a surgeon. Both boys attended Westminster School, London and became friends. They both had been choir boys and loved music. Peter was studious and liked jazz and blues until Gordon encouraged him to listen to pop and rock’n’roll. Both played guitar and soon formed a singing duo to entertain their fellow students. Once they developed an Everly Brothers style, Gordon convinced Peter to dog school and they earned pocket money playing in pubs and small clubs as Gordon and Peter. In 1964, they were offered a recording contract by EMI and as Peter’s younger sister was Jane Asher, girlfriend to Paul McCartney he badgered the Beatle to give them a song to record. McCartney obliged with an unrecorded Beatle song called, A world without love (written by McCartney and credited to Lennon and McCartney). The single did well in the UK but became the first of the British Invasion to top the American charts displacing the Beatles' own Can't Buy Me Love.

For the next couple of years Peter and Gordon (very much a Lennon look-a-like) was very busy appearing on numerous television programs in the US as well as touring Japan, Australia and North America. Like Chad and Jeremy their appeal was their well bred English look and accent. American audiences in particular were in love with anything from Swinging England. Both duos sang low key ballads with clear enunciation which had massive appeal to both parents and their teenagers.

Peter and Gordon had two main advantages over Chad and Jeremy, they recorded Beatle songs and were more popular in the UK and Commonwealth as well as the US. As a consequence Asher and Waller enjoyed relatively greater longevity. More chart success followed with Lennon and McCartney songs like Nobody I Know and I don’t want to see you again.

I Go to Pieces was written by Del Shannon and Buddy Holly’s True Love ways saw Peter and Gordon riding high.

By 1966 however the bubble was beginning to burst and although Woman written by "Bernard Webb" a pseudonym used by Paul McCartney did well their last chart hit was Lady Godiva in 1967.

The duo disbanded in 1968. Peter became an A&R man with Apple and Gordon tried unsuccessfully to promote himself as a solo singer. Eventually Gordon left showbusiness to run a landscape gardening business in Northamptonshire. In 1971 he was invited to take part in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat and later returned to the music business as a music publisher in America before his untimely death in 2009.

When Peter Asher left Apple he became the manager of James Talyor producing several of his albums. Now based in the US he founded the successful Peter Asher Management agency and went on to handle artists such as Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Carole King and Linda Ronstadt. Peter Asher continues to keep busy as a producer working with many artists including Diana Ross, Neil Diamond, Ringo Starr, Cher, Morrissey, Robbie Williams, Elvis Costello, The Dixie Chicks and Billy Joel, among many others.

Peter and Gordon did reunited onstage in 2005 in New York as part of two tribute concerts for Mike Smith of the Dave Clark Five. They also appeared in 2006 and 2007 at various venues with their last perfomance in 2008 at a free concert on the pier in Santa Monica, California. Gordon died on 17 July 2009 at the age of 64 from cardiac arrest.

Worth a listen
A World Without Love (1964)
Nobody I Know (1964)
I Go to Pieces (1964)
To know you is to love you (1965)
(remake of the Teddy Bear’s To Know Him Is To Love Him)
True Love Ways (1965)
Woman (1966)
Lady Godiva (1966)

Saturday, 12 April 2014


Nazareth was formed in 1968 in Dunfermline, Scotland. The line-up consisted of Dan McCafferty (vocals), Manny Charlton (guitar), Pete Agnew (bass) and Darrell Sweet (drums). The band were previously called The Shadettes but changed their name to suit their style of progressive rock music. Nazareth refers to the Band’s opening line of The Weight.

At first the group felt constrained being limited to play covers of singles in the UK Top Thirty only by local ballroom managers. Ironically some of their most popular music included classic reinterpretations of the music of others. The group based in Scotland also felt alienated and estranged by a London-centric music industry. In 1970 they left the Belleville Hotel and Kinema Ballroom of Fife and moved to London and released their first album to general indifference.

Under the management of bingo magnate Bill Fehilly they released Exercises in 1972, and played support on the Deep Purple UK tour and Rory Gallagher on his European leg. Gradually their fan base grew and when they released Razzmatazz (1973), the album spawned two UK Top Ten hits, "Broken Down Angel" and "Bad Bad Boy".

Loud 'N' Proud followed soon after with their cover version of Joni Mitchell's song "This Flight Tonight," giving Naz another single success.

Their record company Mooncrest was eager for more singles’ sales but the band preferred albums as was the trend of all progressive rockers. Rampant, was release in 1974, but the single "Shanghai'd in Shanghai", failed to chart in the UK.

The band released My White Bicycle which became a Top 20 hit in the UK.

Hair of the Dog was released in April 1975 and was produced by Manny Charlton.

The title track of that album became a staple of 1970s rock radio. In the US the album contained a version of The Everly Brothers’, "Love Hurts", the US album went platinum and the single was a resounding international hit.

Throughout the next two decades the line-up changed several times as the band continued to record and tour. Manny left the band in 1990 as their popularity dwindled in the US and UK. Despite this the group maintained a strong following in Germany and Eastern Europe where they continued to have hits. In 1999 founding member and drummer Darrell Sweet tragically died suddenly from a major heart attack. Lead singer Dan McCafferty eventually retired in 2013 due to ill health leaving Pete Agnew as the only original member of the group. The band continues to perform and record with Linton Osborne as its front man.

Worth a listen

Dear John (1972)
Broken Down Angel (1973)
Bad Bad Boy (1973)
This Flight Tonight (1973 )
Shanghai'd in Shanghai (1974)
My White Bicycle (1975 )
Love Hurts (1975 )
Holly Roller (1975 )
I don’t want to go on without you (1976 )
Dream on (1982 )

Friday, 4 April 2014

Stuart Henry (1942 - 1995)

Stuart Henry was born in Edinburgh in 1942 and trained as an actor by chance one of his first roles as a professional actor was to play a DJ. He liked it so much he before he joined Radio Scotland as pirate jock. Chronic sea sickness prevented him from broadcasting from the ship (Comet) so many of his programs were pre-recorded or broadcast from the mainland.

Stuart’s show was immensely popular and he was selected to join the Radio 1 stable when private radio was made illegal. Stuart was the master of understatement and spoke with a gentle East Coast accent which endeared him to his audience. He presented 'Midday Spin' (1967 -1974) as well as the Saturday Morning show (1966 -1967).

When Stuart began to slur his words regularly on air his superiors thought he was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. Somewhat controversially Stuart’s contract with BBC was not renewed and he left to join Radio Luxembourg in 1974. Soon after the DJ was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Throughout his career with Radio Luxembourg he battled with the progressive disease and continued to broadcast until the illness finally overtook.

By his side always in the studio was his wife Ollie. Stuart was always enthusiastic about the records he played and did much to introduce new acts to the listeners of Radio Luxembourg. He was a compassionate man and expressed his concern for ecological issues, as well as the plight of runaways living rough. Stuart died in 1995.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Frankie Miller

Francis Miller was born in Bridgeton, Glasgow in 1949. He was brought up in a tenement with his parents, Kathy and Frank, and elder sisters Letty and Anne. Young Francis was an altar boy who loved to play football. He listened to his mother’s record collection and gained an appreciation for Rock’n’Roll and R&B. Frances identified with the music of Ray Charles, Little Richard and Elvis Presley and learned to play the guitar aged nine. He joined bands before becoming a professional musician with the Stoics and gained quite a reputation around Glasgow. Francis (now calling himself Frankie) had a powerful voice and the group was signed by Chrysalis in early 1970. They went on tour supporting Ten Years After and made a brief appearance at The Isle of Wight Festival as Howl. Now relocated to London the band broke up before making any recordings. Frankie met Robin Trower (Procol Harum) and was asked to join the band Jude in 1971. The lineup included former Stone the Crows, James Dewar (bass and vocals) and Clive Bunker (Jethro Tull) on drums but the group only stayed together for a short time. Frankie and Robin had written several songs together and although Jude made no recordings "I Can't Wait Much Longer" appeared on Robin Trower's first solo album, Twice Removed from Yesterday.

Frankie Miller now signed a solo deal with Chrysalis Records, and recorded his first LP Once In A Blue Moon, produced by Dave Robinson with Brinsley Schwarz as his support. The album met critical acclaim but little else.

Chrysalis was keen to develop Frankie’s commercial potential and recorded his second album High Life (1974) in New Orleans. The album was written and produced by Allen Toussaint (he produced ‘Workin’ in a coal mine’ by Lee Dorsey).

The follow up The Rock (1975) was produced by Elliot Mazer (he produced Neil Young’s Harvest) and was made in San Francisco. Frankie had put a band together called The Frankie Miller Band. The lineup was guitarist, Henry McCullough (The Grease Band & Wings), Chrissie Stewart (bass), Stu Perry (drums), and Mick ‘Blue’ Weaver (keyboards) who played on the sessions. Also the album featured the legendary Memphis Horns and The Edwin Hawkins Singers.

It took until 1977 before Frankie had his first commercial hit with “Be good to your self” from the Full House album (produced by Chris Thomas). Now playing with The “Full House” band which consisted of Ray Minhinnet (lead guitar), Jim Hall (keyboards) , Graham Deacon (drums) and Chrissie Stewart (bass). Frankie and the Band had just completed a national tour and was a sharp outfit which is caught on the album.

His next album was called Double Trouble (1978) and was produced by Jack Douglas (worked with Aerosmith). The singer had a new band including drummer, BJ Wilson (Procol Harum), Chrissie Stewart (bass), Ray Russell (guitar), Chris Mercer and Martin Drover (horns) and Paul Carrack (keyboards and vocals) with Stephen Tyler (Aerosmith) making a guest appearance as backing vocalist.

In the same year "Darlin'" became a hit in the UK and raised some interest in the US. The follow up "When I'm Away From You" failed to impact in the US and was a minor hit in the UK.

His last album for Chrysalis Records was recorded in Nashville where he worked with many of the industry’s best. The Glasgow singer made many lasting friendships as he continued to impress with his vocal performances and writing prowess. He signed to Capitol records in 1982, and released his eigth album called ‘Standing on the Edge’. All the tracks were written by Frankie Miller and recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, and featured part of the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm section.

Frankie returned to a more rock style by the mid eighties and toured Europe and the States with a new band which included Simon Kirke (Free and Bad Company), Brian Robertson (Thin Lizzie) and Chrissie Stewart (bass). Frankie continued to record but was no longer interested in commercial success he put his efforts into song writing. Frankie had already written and co-written successful songs including “Still in love with you’ with Phil Lynott.

Many of his own songs were also covered by his own heroes including: Johnny Cash, and Ray Charles which must have given him a kick. Other contemporaries to sing versions of his songs were: Rod Stewart,The Bellamy Brothers, Kim Carnes, Waylon Jennings, Bob Seger, Bonnie Tyler, Roy Orbison, Etta James, Joe Walsh, Joe Cocker, Cher, The Everly Brothers, Chris Farlowe and The Eagles among many others. Then out of the blue, Frankie Miller scored a huge number one UK hit with "Caledonia" in 1992.

Flush with his new success Frankie Miller joined Joe Welsh (The Eagles) and Nicky Hopkins and had plans to record and tour. Whilst writing material in New York Frankie suffered a massive brain haemorrhage and collapsed into a coma. He was unconscious for five months and had to go through extensive rehabilitation when he finally regained consciousness. After a long ,hard struggle captured in the BBC TV documentary ‘Stubborn Kinda Fella,’ Frankie Miller got back to writing again, collaborating with Will Jennings, and their composition "The Sun Goes Up, the Sun Comes Down," was performed by Bonnie Tyler, Paul Carrack, and Jools Holland at a concert for the disabled in Edinburgh.

He tried his hand at acting in 1979 and appeared Peter McDougall's TV film ‘Just a Boy's Game’.

Frankie Miller's songs also appeared regularly in the scores of many high profile movies and TV films. He and Rory Gallagher co-wrote the score for the movie Sense of Freedom which dramatise the story of his second cousin, Jimmy Boyle.

Worth a listen
I Can’t Change It (1972)
A Fool in Love (1975)
Aint Got No Money (1975)
Jealous Guy (1977)
Be Good to Yourself (1977)
Darlin' (1978)
Sense of Freedom (1979)
Jealousy (1982)
Caledonia (1992)

Worth a listen
I Can’t Change It (1972)
A Fool in Love (1975)
Aint Got No Money (1975)
Jealous Guy (1977)
Be Good to Yourself (1977)
Darlin' (1978)
Sense of Freedom (1979)
Jealousy (1982)
Caledonia (1992)

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Humblebums

Billy “The Big Yin" Connolly was born in Glasgow in 1942. He started off as a folk sing and played banjo. His first band was an old time country music group called The Skillet Lickers and was formed in the 1960s. Later he joined a novelty musical group called The Acme Brush Company. Connolly then co-founded the Humblebums with Tam Harvey in 1965 and played in the pubs and clubs around the city, most notably the Old Scotia Bar. The name for the band came from a Connolly quip, “he (Connolly) was humble and Tam Harvey was a bum.” In truth Tam Harvey was an accomplished plectrum guitarist and played mandolin. Billy sang, played banjo and guitar. He loved to entertain his audiences with humorous introductions to the songs. For a brief period Shetland fiddler, Aly Bain joined the Humblebums as "unofficial member”. The Humblebums built up a loyal following in Glasgow and signed to the Transatlantic label. Their first album was a mixture of traditional folk songs and Billy Connolly originals, entitled First Collection of Merry Melodies released in 1969. Ronnie Rae (bass) was hired as a session musician to flesh out their sound. The album sold well in Glasgow.

In the same year after a concert in Paisley they met Gerry Rafferty a local musician and song writer and when Connolly heard him sing at an after gig party he asked Gerry to join the Humblebums. The group performed as a trio for a short time but inevitably the change in the band’s direction with the addition of Rafferty led to internal tensions and Tam Harvey left in 1970 and formed High Speed Grass with David Craig. Rafferty and Connolly were meantime working on a new album called The New Humblebums. This was released in late 1969 and featured brass and woodwind arrangements.

The Humblebums recorded a second album in 1970 called Open Up the Door*. Rafferty’s plaintive vocals and melodies and Connolly’s upbeat tunes and fine guitar playing were complimented by session musicians which unfortunately meant the duo found it difficult to capture the feel of the record on stage.

Shoeshine boy was the most commercial of their singles and sold well in Scotland but failed to attract much interest in the rest of the UK.

The duo was working a punishing schedule and although records were selling reasonably well, and their gigs growing in prominence, Gerry was developing his music style whilst Connolly was less motivated and preferred his story telling on stage. Off stage Billy was drinking and became unwell. Now ill at ease with each other's company they eventually broke up in 1971. In debt Billy Connolly return to Scotland and embarked on a solo career which led him eventually to become an internationally successful comedian, actor and raconteur.

Rafferty meantime recorded a low impact solo album, Can I Have My Money Back?

Soon after he formed Stealers Wheel with Joe Egan and they recorded "Stuckin the Middle with you" before eventually emerging as a major solo artist with "Baker Street".

*The album cover was painted by John "Patrick" Byrne, marking the beginning of a long working relationship between Byrne the painter and Rafferty.


Worth a listen
Why Don't They Come Back to Dunoon (1969)
Give Me a Little of Your Time (1969)
Salt Coats at the Fair (1969)
Windy and Warm (1969)
Look Over the Hill & Far Away (1969)
Rick Rack (1969)
Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway (1969)
Patrick (1969)
Coconut Tree (1969)
Silk Pyjamas (1969)
Good-Bye-Ee! (1969)
Steamboat Row (1970)
I Can’t Stop Now (1970)
Shoeshine Boy (1970)
My Singing Bird (1970)
Oh No (1970)
I Can't Stop Now (1970)
Mary of the Mountains (1970)
All the Best People Do It (1970)
Worth a listen
Why Don't They Come Back to Dunoon (1969)
Give Me a Little of Your Time (1969)
Salt Coats at the Fair (1969)
Windy and Warm (1969)
Look Over the Hill & Far Away (1969)
Rick Rack (1969)
Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway (1969)
Patrick (1969)
Coconut Tree (1969)
Silk Pyjamas (1969)
Good-Bye-Ee! (1969)
Steamboat Row (1970)
I Can’t Stop Now (1970)
Shoeshine Boy (1970)
My Singing Bird (1970)
Oh No (1970)
I Can't Stop Now (1970)
Mary of the Mountains (1970)
All the Best People Do It (1970)

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Stealers Wheel (Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan)

Stealers Wheel were formed in 1972 when Gerry Rafferty (1947 – 2011) and Joe Eagan decided to get together with Rab Noakes, Roger Brown and Ian Campbell. Rafferty and Egan had been friends since their teens in Paisley where they grew up. The school mates played in several local bands including The Sensors and The Mavericks before working as session musicians. Gerry joined the Humblebums with Billy Connolly in the late sixties but the duo broke up after recording a couple of albums.

Gerry started a solo recording career and released the album Can I Have My Money Back? (Transatlantic, 1971).

This met with little success and so he started the group. The original line-up of Stealers Wheel lasted only a few months and by the time the band was signed to A&M Records later that same year, Brown, Noakes and Campbell had been replaced by Paul Pilnick (lead guitar), Tony Williams (bass) and Rod Coombes (drums). Their first album, Stealers Wheel was produced by Leiber & Stoller and contained the international chart topper "Stuck in the Middle with You".

By the time the first album was released Rafferty had left the band to be replaced by Luther Grosvenor, who remained with the band for much of 1973 on tour. DeLisle Harper also replaced Tony Williams on tour. Gerry Rafferty was persuaded to return. However, Grosvenor, Coombes and Pilnick all left the band. With so many changes in the band's line-up they officially became a duo (Rafferty and Eagan), with backing musicians as needed on tour and in the studio. Later in 1973 the single "Everyone's Agreed That Everything Will Turn Out Fine" had modest chart success and, in 1974, the single "Star" reached the Top 30 of both the UK and US charts.

A second album Ferguslie Park was released in 1974, but made little commercial impact.

By the time Right Or Wrong album was released in 1975, Stealers Wheel had ceased to exist.

All three albums had sleeve designs by artist John Byrne.

The group did get back together in 2008 without Egan and Rafferty. Both Jerry and Joe went onto have solo careers but were contractually unable to release material for another three years. Egan recorded his solo debut album Out of Nowhere, (1979) with the hit single “Back on the road.”

Map (1981) was his second album but was not a critical or commercial success.

Joe left the music business and now runs a publishing company from home. Gerry went on to solo success and released a series of hit albums and singles.

Worth a listen

Late again
Stuck in the Middle With You (1972)
You put something inside me (1972)
Everyone's Agreed That Everything Will Turn Out Fine (1973)
Star (1974)
What more could you want (1974)
Over my head (1974)
Blind Faith (1974)
Nothing gonna change my mind (1974)
Steamboat Row (1974)
Benediction (1975 )
Right or Wrong (1975)

Gerry Rafferty
Can I have my money back (1971)
Didn’t I tell you (1971)
Mary Skiffleton (1971)
Sign on the dotted line (1971)
Where I belong

Joe Egan
Back on the road again (1981 )

Friday, 7 March 2014

Alex Campbell (1925 – 1987)

Alex Campbell was born in 1925 in Glasgow. He was brought up by his grandmother after his parents and siblings sisters died from tuberculosis . He idolised his grandfather and became an avid reader. During the War years he learned the songs of Allied servicemen. He left school and went to London where he worked at the Inland Revenue (now HMRC). After a couple of years he left to travel and ended up a student in Paris. To make extra money he became a well known busker. Later he played in a café after he became friendly with American folk musician Derroll Adams.

On trips back to London in the 1950s, Campbell appeared at Alexis Korner's "Blues and Barrelhouse" club and other skiffle and folk music venues. He soon became involved with the folk music revival taking place in London and met Ewan MacColl.

By the early 60s Campbell was an established folk singer playing to audiences in the UK and Europe . He enthralled his audiences with his story-telling and singing. His performances were occasionally marred by his excessive drinking. He recorded over 100 albums but didn’t enjoyed great commercial success.

He never restricted himself to Scottish folk music which was met with some criticism but enjoyed a catholic taste recording many folk styles and showcasing other writers' work, including Paul Simon, Anne Briggs, Tom Paxton and Bob Dylan.

He became a major influence on many folk singers and earned the nick name Big Daddy due to his persistence and generosity promoting new talent. Sadly Alex Campbell died of tuberculosis in 1987.

Worth a listen
The Dundee Weaver (1963)
The Wee Cooper O' Fife (1963)
Wi' a Hundred Pipers (1963)
Will ye no come back again (1963)
Done in the valley (1963)
Love is teasing (1964)
I’m a rover (1964)
Been on the Road So Long (1969)

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Bay City Rollers

In 1967 Alan Longmuir (bass) and brother Derek (drums), Gordon Nobby Clarke (singer) and John Devine (guitar) were in a Scottish group called Saxon. They thought the moniker was too English sounding and according to legend found the group’s next name by throwing darts at a map of the United States. Why it was not a map of Scotland (being fiercely Scottish) is not clear but the Bay City Rollers were born. The Rollers were a very popular club act in the late 60s and soon snapped up by Bell Records. Their first single was a cover version of Gentry’s "Keep on Dancing." The record was produced by Jonathan King (Everyone’s gone to the moon) and entered the top ten in UK.

In June 1972, Eric Faulkner (lead guitarist) joined the band and then Les McKeon (1973) replaced Nobby Clarke, and Stuart “Woody” Wood (rhythm guitar). This stabilised the quintet's line up. Their next three singles flopped but in 1974 they had a minor hit with "Remember (Sha La La La)."

From this point forward the Rollers became a teen sensation in Great Britain with everyone of them dressed in plaid. The tartan clad Rollers won a song contest, sponsored by Radio Luxembourg with a song called "Mañana. " which proved popular in Europe and Israel thereby spreading their appeal.

When the Rollers were not doing cover versions many of their early hits were written by Bill Martin and Phil Coulter. The writers had previously written Sandy Shaw’s hit “Puppet on a string,” and Cliff Richard’s “Congratulations.” Over the next three years the Rollers released a string of successful hits including, "Remember (Sha La La La),” "Shang-a-Lang," “Summerlove Sensation,” and "All of Me Loves All of You.” In the spring of 1975, they had become one of the biggest selling acts in Britain.

  Rollermania took hold of the UK as the Rollers undertook a national tour. "Bye, Bye, Baby" (previously recorded by the Four Seasons) stayed at #1 in the UK for six weeks and "Give A Little Love" topped the charts in the summer of the same year.

By autumn (fall), they were number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 with "Saturday Night," a second US hit came with "Money Honey" which reached #9.

A Dusty Springfield song "I Only Want To Be With You" reaffirmed their popularity in the UK.

By the end of the 70s, the Rollers had lost much of their fan base and the last single to make the charts was "It's A Game" (1977).

Meantime Alan Longmuir left the band because he felt he was too old for the lineup. He was replaced briefly by Irish American, Ian Mitchell, who in turn was replaced by guitarist Pat McGlynn. Alan Longmuir re-joined the band in 1978. The Rollers branched out into children’s television in both the UK and the US but when their manager Tam Paton was sacked in 1979, and Les McKeown's was replaced as lead singer by Duncan Faure, a South African singer, the days of the Bay City Rollers, was over. During the 80s and 90s, there were various short-lived revivals featuring some of the original members. In 1999, the most-famous line-up of Alan, Derek, Woody, Les and Eric briefly reunited for a new LP and tour. Currently, there are two touring versions of the group: Les McKeown's Legendary Bay City Rollers and Ian Mitchell's Bay City Rollers. Each group features only its titled member from the original Rollers heyday.

Worth a listen:
Keep On Dancing
Remember (Sha La La La) (1974)
Shang-a-Lang (1974)
Summerlove Sensation (1974)
All of Me Loves All of You (1974)
Bye, Bye, Baby (1975)
Give A Little Love (1975)
Saturday Night (1975)
Money Honey (1975)
I Only Want To Be With You (1975)
It's A Game (1977)

Sandy Shaw
Puppet on a string

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Rab Noakes

Robert Noakes was born in 1947 in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. Influenced by rock’n’roll and skiffle he learned to play guitar but became more impressed with the success of Bert Jansch and The Incredible String Band.

He began touring Britain and Denmark sensitively interpreting the work of American singer/songwriters. His knack for writing hook-laden songs brought him to the attention of others long before he recorded his first album. Both Archie Fisher and Barbara Dickson included his songs on their albums. In 1970, he signed for Decca and released a solo album Do You See the Lights. One of the tracks "Together Forever," became a folk-pop hit for Lindisfarne.

His next album, Rab Noakes (1972) was produced by Bob Johnston, and featured guest vocalist Gerry Rafferty. Subsequently Rab appeared on Gerry Rafferty’s debut album, Can I Have My Money Back in the same year.

He agreed to form Steeler's Wheel, with Rafferty and Joe Eagan but left before the group recorded their Top Ten hit "Stuck in the Middle with You."

They remained friends and Noakes played guitar on one of Rafferty's later albums, Over my Head. His third solo album was Red Pump Special (1973) and was recorded in Nashville produced by Elliot Mazer. The single, Branch was released in the same year and despite attracting considerable airplay it failed to chart in the UK.

Restless (1978), was recorded at John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Tittenhurst and produced by Terry Melcher. The album was released on Ringo Starr's label, Ring O'Records. It was followed two years later with a reissue of his solo album, Rab Noakes.

In the ’eighties he teamed up with some young Glaswegian musicians including Brendan Moon, Lorraine McIntosh and Andy Alston to form Gene Pitney's Birthday. Into the 'nineties this grew into The Varaflames whose members have included harmonica ace Fraser Speirs, Rod Clements of Lindisfarne, guitar ace Jerry Donahue, Pilot’s David Paton, Hilary Brooks, Jim McDermott, Deacon Blue's Ewen Vernal and Pick Withers of Dire Straits.

The singer songwriter’s health began to deteriorate as he became alcohol-dependent. He released Under the Rain in 1984 but did not make another album until 1994 when he recorded Standing Up, a scaled-down recording featuring his solo guitar and vocals. Rab started touring with The Varaflames.

Rab started touring with The Varaflames. In 1990 Noakes worked as music director for the BBC television series Your Cheatin' Heart, after which he became senior executive producer for BBC Radio Scotland.

He left in 1995 to form his own production company, Neon, with his personal and business partner Stephanie Pordage. Neon continues to provide quality TV and radio programs from its base in Glasgow's Kinning Park. Rab Noakes continues to work with harmonica supremo, Fraser Speirs. The first record on the Neon label was 'Throwing Shapes' by The Varaflames, which was followed up with Rab and Fraser’s 'Lights back on' (2001).

The Varaflames second album ‘‘Unlimited Mileage’ was released in 2007.

Rab Noakes continues to record and perform.

Worth a listen
Without Me, Just With You (1970)
Too Old To Die (1970)
Pass The Time (1973)
Branch (1973)
Wrong Joke Again (1973)
Sittin’ In A Corner Blues (1973)
Memories (1975)
November Afternoon (1975)
Restless (1978)
Waiting Here For You (1978) Long Dark Night (1978)
Call It A Day (1980)
Take This Letter (1984)
How Can I Believe You Now (1984)
I Wish I Was In England (1994)
Gently Does It (1994)
Open All Night (1994)

Together Forever (1971 )

The Varaflames
If these shoes could talk (2000)
Learning the game (2000)
Blues around me now (2000)

Gallacher and Lyle

Benny Gallagher (vocals/guitar) and Graham Lyle (vocals/guitar) first played together in Largs, in Ayrshire, Scotland. They were skilled songwriters and soon asked to write for Dean Ford & the Gaylords (aka Marmalade). The single "Mr. Heartbreak's Here Instead," (1964) was a hit for the group Gallacher and Lyle’s first success as writers.

In 1967 the duo went to London and worked as writers at the Beatles’ Apple label. There they had a couple of minor successes with ‘Sparrow’ (B side of Goodbye) and ‘International’ which were both recorded by Mary Hopkin.

The duo continued to perform until they were asked to join McGuinness Flint in 1969. The group was formed after Tom McGuinness and Hughie Flint had left Manfred Mann and Tony Reeves (ex Coliseum) recommended his friends. The lineup was completed by Dennis Coulson (vocals), Paul Rutherford (trombone), and Tony Reeves (bass). Gallacher and Lyle wrote “When I’m dead and gone (1970) and Malt and Barley Blues (1971) which gave the group two sizable hits before Benny and Graham left in 1971 to pursue their own solo partnership.

McGuinness Flint continued with a series of lineup changes but never reached their previous popularity and eventually packed it in, in 1975. Tom McGuinness joined up Paul Jones (ex Manfred Mann) in a group called The Blues Band. The lineup included Hughie Flint, Dave Kelly. Paul Jones had previously “sat in” with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated in 1962 before joining Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers (aka Manfred Mann). He had been offered to be the lead singer in the group Brain Jones was putting together, but declined. Paul went solo in 1966 and had a few hits before becoming an actor. In 1979 he and Tom McGuinness joined forces again in the Blues Brothers.

In 1974 Gallagher and Lyle joined Ronnie Lane's group Slim Chance but were still keen to have a solo career.

Their self-titled debut duo album was for Capitol, but when they switched to the A&M label for their second effort. A&M reissue of their debut album. These albums showcased Gallacher & Lyle’s flair for folk music but it was not until they released Breakaway which gave the duo two separate hits, I wanna stay with you (1976) and Heart on my sleeve (1976) which reached the charts.

Art Garfunkel covered the title track and took the single into the US charts. Other albums followed and despite successful tours and switching labels in 1979 the duo separated. Graham later found a new partner, Terry Britten and wrote What’s love got to do with it, and Just good friends recorded respectively by Tina Turner and Michael Jackson.

Gallagher and Lyle continued to work as session musicians and were reacquainted in 2007 when both appeared on an album by singer-songwriter Chris Tassone recorded at London's Abbey Road studios. The pair started performing together again at charity gigs in 2010 and undertook a Scottish tour two years later. Gallagher continues to tour the folk circuit.

Worth a listen

Gallagher and Lyle
I want to stay with you (1976)
Heart on my sleeve (1976)
Stay with you (1976)
Storm in my soul (1976)
Rock writer (1976)
Every little teardrop (1977)

McGuinness Flint
When I’m dead and gone (1970)
Malt and Barley Blues (1971)

Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance
How come? (1973)

Art Garfunkel
Breakaway (1975)

Tina Turner
What’s love got to do with it (1993)

Michael Jackson
Just good friends (1987)

The Blues Band
Come on in
The Blues Band Song (1980)
Find yourself another (1980)
Nadine (1980)
That's all right (1980)
Itchy Feet (1981)
Come on (1981)
So bad (1982)
Blue Collar (1982)

Sunday, 23 February 2014

John Martyn (1948 - 2009)

Iain David McGeachy was born in 1948 in New Malden, Surrey. His parents (both opera singers) divorced when he was five and he grew up in Glasgow living with his grandmother. At Shawlands Academy he loved to listen to blues music and by aged 15 had become a competent guitar player and two years later was a regular on the Glasgow folk scene. There his mentor was legendary folky Hamish Imlach but John’s musical influences lay in many different musical genres including the classics. Soon John was touring the North of England folk circuit which was brim full of emerging Celtic talent like Billy Connolly, Gerry Rafferty, (Humblebums), Joe Egan and Barbara Dickson among many others. John became close friends with Clive Palmer (Incredible String Band).

Eager to become part of the burgeoning folk club scene of the mid sixties John moved to London and there he became a regular at the Les Cousins in Soho and Scots Hoose in Cambridge Circus. There he rubbed shoulders with Paul Simon, Ralph McTell, Al Stewart, Ray Harper, Donovan and Bert Jansch. John’s unique blend of blues and folk, musicianship and ability to write his own material meant he stood out from the crowd. Chris Blackwell (co-founder of Island Records) signed John in 1967 making him the first solo white artist to join the company. Island Records had originated in Jamaica in 1959 and was founded by Chris Blackwell and Graeme Goodall. The company relocated to the UK in 1962 and initially concentrated on reggae style music but by the mid sixties they recognised the developing underground music genre. The labels demographic were older teenagers and younger adults who preferred albums to singles. John recorded a folky album called London Conversation which was a folk album released in 1968.

By the time he came to record his second album The Tumbler, (produced by Al Stwart) the emphasis had moved to a more jazz feel with session musicians like Harold McNair (a reeds man - jazz saxophonist or jazz clarinetist) fleshing out the sound.

On tour John continued to experiment adding various effects to his electrified acoustic performances. As contemporaries Hendrix and Townsend were experimenting with feedback John Martyn fed his acoustic guitar through a fuzzbox, phase-shifter, and Echoplex to allow him to play off of tape loops of his own guitar. This gave him a unique sound which was captured on the Stormbringer! album (1970) and recorded in Woodstock, N.Y. with American musicians.

By now his influences combined folk, blues, rock and jazz as well as music from the Middle East, South America and Jamaica giving John and unique folk appeal. In 1973 Solid Air was released and became arguable his most commercial effort to date.

The album featured jazz bass player, Danny Thompson (Pentangle), John’s vocals were in a slurred vocal style, the timbre of which resembled a tenor saxophone. The same technique was used much later by Van Morrison. Martyn’s next project was an experimental album called Inside Out. It emphasised improvisation rather than song structure and John’s vocals were deeper and much bluesier.

John’s private life was in turmoil with marriage problems and battling alcohol dependency none the less he continued to perform although his personal appearances were erratic and inconsistent. Performances ranged from utter disasters driven by drunken antics to sheer brilliance as captured on Live at Leeds (1975).

At the time Island refused to release the album which featured Danny Thompson and drummer John Stevens, so John sold signed copies of the album by mail order. By the end of 1975, the singer songwriter was utterly exhausted and took a break year to travel. In Jamaica he met reggae producer Lee 'Scratch' Perry and there he was encouraged to start playing again. On his return One World (produced by Phil Brown) was released in 1977.

The album had a more upbeat feel and was recorded outside and in the early hours of the morning which provided an interesting array of incidental sounds that appealed to the hi fi enthusiast. No longer just a folk of blues singer the new hip direction earned John critical acclaim and the title, “Father of Trip-Hop, ” and One World charted in the UK albums chart. By the end of the decade the signer songwriter’s marriage had dissolved and his personal life was again in complete chaos. Depressed and alcoholic he produced Grace and Danger but Island initially refused to release the album because they felt the content was too depressing.

The songs painfully and honestly depicted the writer/performers personal predicament providing his fans with his most powerful material in years. Phil Collins (Genesis) played drums and sang backing vocals and John Giblin played bass. Eventually it was released and Grace and Danger subsequently become one of the highest-regarded in the John Martyn portfolio. It also happens to be John Martyn’s favourite album. Now tired of the limitations of his acoustic guitar and solo performances he concentrated on electric guitar with a full band setting for his music. John switched recording labels to Warner Brothers (WEA) and released Glorious Fool (1981), produced by Phil Collins and featuring Eric Clapton; and Well Kept Secret (1982).

Eventually he returned to Island records but not before he released another live album called Philanthropy.

Still battling alcoholism, John Martyn left Island records in 1988 after they refused to renew his contract. Throughout the nineties John continued to record and perform often with well known collaborators such as Phil Collins, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and Levon Helm of the Band. Towards the end of the decade the adopted Scottish artist was more influenced by funk than folk and continued to record ground breaking materials. Despite failing health John Martyn was always determined to continue to experiment and in 2001 he collaborated with dance artist Sister Bliss and sang the vocals on a cover version of Deliver Me (previous recorded by the Beloved). The single reached No. 31 in the UK charts.

Throughout the latter part of his career Island records continued to release compilations of his works which although not representative of his contemporary developments none the less introduced many new fans to the brilliance of the man’s music catalogue. Martyn’s music features in several movie soundtracks and TV shows such as The Talented Mr Ripley and Human Remains respectively and continued to be a most well respected figure in electric folk having inspired many throughout the decades.

In 2001 the documentary Tell them I'm somebody else... was released and features live music as well as behind the scenes footage of John rehearsing and relaxing.

John Martyn continued to record and perform living between Ireland and Scotland. In 2009 he sadly died from diabetic complications.

Worth a listen
Cocain (1967)
The River (1968)
John the Baptist (1970)
Head and Heart (1971)
Solid Air (1973)
May You Never (1973)
So much in love with you (1973)
One day without you (1974)
Big Muff (1977)
Couldn’t love you more (1977)
Dealer (1977)
One World (1977)
Solid Air (1977)
Small Hours (1978)
Angeline (1986)

Friday, 21 February 2014

The Incredible String Band

Robin Duncan Harry Williamson was born in 1943, in Edinburgh. He grew up in the Portobello area of Edinburgh, and attended George Watson's College before leaving at the age of 15 to become a professional musician. At first he performed in local jazz bands, with Gerard Dott and others. By 1961 he had met and begun sharing a flat with Bert Jansch and in 1963 travelled together to London to play the metropolitan folk circuit.

By 1965 he had returned to Edinburgh and formed a duo with Clive Palmer (banjo). They played fiddle and banjo arrangements of traditional Scots and Irish songs as well as bluegrass. Mike Heron (former member of the Saracens) joined them in 1966 and they signed to Elektra Records calling themselves The Incredible String Band. Their first album The Incredible String Band was released in Britain and the United States and consisted mostly of self-penned material in solo, duo and trio formats, showcasing their playing on a variety of instruments.

Despite meeting critical acclaim Clive Palmer and band’s producer Joe Boyd left the band to travel to India and Afghanistan. On his return, Palmer decided not to re-join the ISB, instead he recorded a solo album of banjo music called Banjoland which remained unreleased until 2005.

In effect ISB had disbanded and Williamson travelled to Morocco and became influenced by Moroccan music. Heron stayed in Edinburgh, playing with a band called Rock Bottom and the Deadbeats. A year later when Williamson returned the duo reformed and played with other musicians including Licorice McKechnie. Their music was now a fusion of folk, mysticism and acoustic psychedelica. The addition of oud, gimbri and tamboura give their music a unique sound and the band released their second album, The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion.

The album went to Number One in the UK folk chart. The next album was The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter which would prove their most commercial venture to date reaching both UK and US album charts.

ISB began touring halls and festivals attracting large crowds. The group won the admiration of many folk and hippy luminaries of the time with many other artists recording their compositions. In 1968 they toured the US during which time they became involved with Scientology. In 1969 the now electric group expanded their line-up and performed at the Woodstock festival.

ISB went on to release ten more albums, becoming one of the most popular, best-loved and influential UK groups of the hippy era. As musical tastes changed their popularity dwindled and the band disbanded in 1974. Riding the tide of nostalgia the original line-up reformed in 1997 toured and recorded before finally breaking up in 2006. Both Williamson and Heron enjoyed successful solo careers after ISB with Heron pursing rock and Williamson exploring his Celtic roots.

Worth a listen
Way back in the 60s (1967)
Footsteps of the heron (1966)
The Hedgehog's Song (1968 )
First Girl I Loved (1968 )
Painting Box ( 1968)
The Mad Hatter's Song (1968)
Blues for the Muse (1968)
Koeeoaddi There (1968)
A Very Cellular Song (1968)
Bid You Goodnight."