Spooky Tooth were an incredibly proficient gaggle of musicians whose individual talents were often greater than the sum of the band—when they were good, they were brilliant, but when they were okay, well they were just okay. The original line-up included two powerful keyboard-playing lead singers Gary Wright and Mike Harrison, a brilliant guitarist in Luther Grosvenor (who became equally famous as Ariel Bender with Mott the Hoople), bassist Greg Ridley (who was a founding member of Humble Pie with The Small Faces’ Steve Marriott) and drummer Mike Kellie (a future member of The Only Ones). Later, the line-up included Mick Jones who (of course) went onto world domination with Foreigner—yeah, I know, but somebody had to do it.
The debut Spooky Tooth album ‘It’s All About’—you can see they’re wanting to be hip & trippy.
Originally tinged with psychedelia and early prog rock, Spooky Tooth’s musical focus was shaped by the songwriting talent of Gary Wright over the first two albums—It’s All About (1968) and Spooky Two (1969). But this nascent potential was literally destroyed by the strange collaboration with electronic wizard Pierre Henry for their third album Ceremony (1969), which Wright claims ended the band’s career:
Then we did a project that wasn’t our album. It was with this French electronic music composer named Pierre Henry. We just told the label, “You know this is his album, not our album. We’ll play on it just like musicians.” And then when the album was finished, they said, “Oh no no — it’s great. We’re gonna release this as your next album.” We said, “You can’t do that. It doesn’t have anything to do with the direction of Spooky Two and it will ruin our career.” And that’s exactly what happened.
Like a hole in the head—a collaboration too far? The now praised sonic experiment ‘Ceremony’.
Devastated, Wright temporarily quit, and Spooky Tooth’s next album (billed as Spooky Tooth featuring Mike Harrison) was a rather mixed bag of covers The Last Puff (1970)—though it did contain the greatest ever Beatles cover “I Am The Walrus.”
New line-up, same jeans. Spooky Tooth in ‘73.
Then Grosvenor and Kellie quit, Jones joined and Wright returned to the fold penning nearly all of the songs for their bizarrely titled fifth album You Broke My Heart So…I Busted Your Jaw (1973). It was another mixed bag, and felt like the band had been treading water for three years rather than moving towards some recognizable goal.
Next came Witness, which was Harrison’s last album with the band, before the arrival of the more poppy The Mirror (1974), which was generally well received. The band split—Jones went onto greater success, while Wright released his million-selling solo album Dream Weaver, which was the kind of thing that punk was invented for.
‘The Mirror’-an album Julian Cope rather liked—and not just for its awful cover.
Spooky Tooth deserve attention not just because of the quality of their disparate players, but also because of the quality of their early and late music—which can partly be seen in these “lost broadcasts” where Spooky Tooth perform “The Weight” on Beat Club in 1968, followed by “Old As I Was Born,” two versions of “Cotton Growing Man,” “Waiting For The Wind” and two versions of “Moriah” for Musikladen in 1973.