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The Father of Prog Rock speaks: Exclusive interview with Billy Ritchie

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Revolution starts with a solitary idea that only builds into purpose when shared with others. In early 1967 three Scotsmen started a revolution when they played a legendary residency at the Marquee club in London. The trio was Ian Ellis (bass and lead vocals), Harry Hughes (drums) and a maverick keyboard player Billy Ritchie. Together they were called 1-2-3.

As a band 1-2-3 had a short lifespan—lasting around two years from 1965-1967. Yet, their impact—their musical idea—was remarkable as it spawned a whole new musical genre called Prog Rock. At the heart of their success was the unique talents of keyboard wizard Ritchie who invented this strange new soundscape that influenced the likes of Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, the Moody Blues, Jon Anderson, and Robert Fripp. Among their fans was Jimi Hendrix and a young David Bowie who wrote a letter highlighting this new sound to the music press.

1-2-3 were loved by musicians but loathed by some of their “hippie” audience. Their impact was immediate. They were signed by Beatles manager Brian Epstein to his talent group NEMS—but his untimely death in August 1967 left 1-2-3 open to the fickle fate of the music business. While other musicians quickly adopted and adapted 1-2-3’s musical style, Ritchie and co. were left to languish by new management who did not know what to do with them.

Eventually 1-2-3 signed a new record deal with Chrysalis Records in 1968. Chrysalis wanted the band to change its name and fit in more with their label. 1-2-3 became Clouds and their unique trademark sound was distilled to fit better with the label’s roster. Three albums and two world tours followed—but it was all too late—The Nice had pinched their act and King Crimson and Yes were already on the horizon.

In the 1990s, David Bowie once again enthused about seeing 1-2-3 play in 1967. It led to renewed interest in the band and their follow-on Clouds.

Not so long ago, I wrote on this site about Billy Ritchie and his creation of Prog Rock. This led to contact with Ritchie who agreed to an exclusive interview with Dangerous Minds.  I wanted to know more about the man who had started a revolution and what that had led to.

I started off by asking Ritchie about his earliest memories, his childhood and first interest in music.

Billy Ritchie: My earliest memory is of going to the local school, it seemed a daunting prospect, a rough place, I was faced with aggression, but my response to that was to override my sensitivity and fight for my place, I even gained a reputation as being tough, when I was actually a sensitive soul—just good at covering that up, and dealing with adversity head on, but of course, it all had an effect on me, made me very tense and vigilant, never relaxed. I didn’t have any thoughts about music at all ‘till much later. 

I was the first of six children. I was followed by two sisters, Catherine and Grace, then a brother, George (who died two years ago); then another sister, Elizabeth, then a brother Brian, who was born when I was fifteen.

My childhood seems, in hindsight, to have been stressful, though I have also memories of cowboys and Indians, then playing football in the streets – no cars in those days at all. I fought with my sisters a lot – doesn’t everyone? – there was great sibling resentment on my part, and probably theirs as well. As a young teenager, I built model planes, and dreamed of being a pilot. I also used to pray that I could be Superman, and astound everyone by flying. 

When did you start taking an interest in playing music?

There weren’t many instruments that were deemed respectable in that society, just accordion mainly, though harmonica was OK to play on coach trips etc. I think that I just wanted to be accepted, or maybe to stand out in some way. I certainly didn’t play because of enjoyment, it meant nothing that way. Most guys played in a vamping style with the tune heavily disguised and swamped by the “chords” (as far as I was concerned anyway). I didn’t like the mess of that – without knowing it, I was already making musical discriminations – so I gravitated towards the Larry Adler/Tommy Reilly kind of playing, using a Super Chrominica (that could play half-notes).

Most people around me frowned on all that – perhaps it seemed too pretentious, but I was happier with that clean sound. I played anything that I thought people would like. I remember a school concert with me playing “Danny Boy.” I was pleased with myself, but people weren’t impressed because there was no vamping, so I ended up disgruntled and a bit resentful. When I calmed down I thought I must be no good at it when people didn’t react. I had no thoughts at all about writing songs or even considering if I was any good at any of that. I suppose I was trying to impress my peers any way I could. I wanted to be a great football player, because that’s what seemed to impress everyone most.

Which musicians did you like?

I didn’t have any thoughts at all about music or music artists, I found it boring when my friends got excited about their heroes, like Elvis or Buddy Holly etc. Sometimes I tried to go along with their conversations, so I wouldn’t be an outsider, but I really couldn’t see what the fuss was about, it didn’t mean anything to me. I didn’t have any thoughts or influences, none of that was relevant at the time.

When did you start playing keyboards?

When I was about eight, a neighbor threw out a piano, because no-one had managed to play it, I think. My parents took it in because it was something for nothing. For the first week or two, all five of us children banged at the piano all at the same time, so I gave up and let them, I couldn’t stand the discordant noise—always hated jams and tuning up sessions where everyone plays at once, making an awful racket!

When my siblings all gave up and got fed up with the piano, I crept back and began to see what I could do with it. I played by following my instincts about what was right and what was wrong.

What was unusual (without me knowing it) was that I also wanted to know why I was playing the sounds, how it worked as well as making it work. But I didn’t think anything of it, and never had any thoughts about whether what I was doing was any good or not, it wasn’t important enough to me, it was just something to do when there was nothing else, no different to building model airplanes, in fact, not as interesting.

I got bored with things easy, so I found that when I was at a loose end, I could fiddle around with the piano, trying to play things, finding out how music worked, it was a kind of curiosity as much as anything. The background accompaniment was everyone in the house shouting at me to “pack it in”! Good practice for the music business!
 
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The Satellites.
 
When did you first join a band?

I was fifteen when my friends decided to form a band called The Satellites and become rich and famous. As they were talking about it, I was feeling a bit of panic, wondering how I could fit into all this – it was all about guitars.

My best friend Flam (Robert Fleming) played a bit of guitar (he ended up making a living from it), Jim Stark was in the pipe band, another friend, Duncan Blair was keen to try playing bass, and Jonny Moffat fancied himself as a singer. Jim said “What are you doing to do Wullie?” All eyes on me. “I’ll play electric organ” I blurted out. I could see the others were asking themselves what the hell that was. I don’t know to this day why I said that, it just came into my head.

I felt a bit of a fraud, the Pete Shotton of the band. My main contribution was suggesting my cousin, William Ritchie (“Big Wull”) to play lead guitar, as he had a Futurama and had been taking guitar lessons.

When we got to the first rehearsal, the others were struggling to learn a song, and I was a bit puzzled, it seemed easy to me. I played the whole thing, and my friend’s faces were a picture. I suddenly realized I was good – very good. It changed everything.

What were your first performances like?

The first thing I learned about doing gigs is that you can rehearse all you want, but it doesn’t teach you anything about playing on a stage in front of an audience. So that was a big leap.

The others were scared, but I felt confident, I knew what I was doing, I could feel what had to be done to make things work, even though I had never done it before. I wasn’t so much inspired as exhilarated to be in control and ahead of everyone else, it gave me great confidence.

Before the advent of the band, I had never even thought about being a musician, it didn’t mean anything to me. If my friends hadn’t decided to form a band, I doubt that I would ever have taken the path I did.

Ironically, I never got the same feelings from music that they did, and I was only ever interested in my own music, not anyone else’s. It’s only recently that I’ve realized that this attitude – as bad as it is in some ways – is the reason I “invented Prog.”

I had no influences or attitudes about what I should play, it was all up for grabs as far as I was concerned, I had no barriers and no important influences looking over my shoulder.

When it finally came to 1-2-3, I had a creative freedom that no-one else I knew had. That opened the doors to all that followed.

The early sixties seemed optimistic, like something was waiting to happen. That was even true in the outposts where we lived. Soon after we formed the band, there was the coming of The Beatles, and a new era definitely arriving. The music culture was linked inextricably to the social culture too, everything seemed part of an upward step. Even for a natural pessimist like me, anything seemed at least possible.
 
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You mentioned 1-2-3, can you tell me how you came to join that band?

After a disgraceful redundancy in my first job, I landed another job in an office, and there I met Archie Colquhoun, who was to play a big part in the first days of 1-2-3. He knew Ian Ellis and Harry Hughes, who had a band called The Premiers, and they were thinking about having an organist in the band. Archie (typically) said he knew where the best organist in Britain was, and put me forward.

I didn’t really want to know, as the guys were dead snooty about it all, especially when they knew I came from Forth, which was considered the home of “The Sheep Men.”  They were thinking they would be doing me a favor, when I thought it was the other way round.

I had no intention of joining them. But when I heard them play, I realized they were miles more professional than The Satellites, so I agreed to a rehearsal.

At the rehearsal, the same thing happened as at The Satellites first get-together, I played a song from scratch, and they were hooked, even though they thought my equipment was embarrassing—a linear amp in a wooden box, and a Hohner clavinet on stilts so I could stand and play. They all had shiny Selmer amps with little green lights flickering in a row. They called my amp “the blue box” because it had blue vinyl covering the wood. They said “That fucking blue box is messing up our look!”

Within weeks of my joining, the lead guitarist, Derek Stark left, feeling overshadowed by the organ. For a year or two, we played all the main Scottish gigs, supporting The Kinks one night in Edinburgh.

After a trip to London with Cyril Stapleton the band leader didn’t achieve anything, the band broke up, but after a few months, Ian and Harry and I decided to form a trio, and from that, 1-2-3 was born.
 
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The original Prog Rock band 1-2-3.
 
Billy Ritchie: When 1-2-3 began playing, we quickly found that we divided opinion in the audience.

Half would hate us, and the other half—usually other musicians—would be delirious with shock and joy. We thought Scotland must be too square for us, and thought we could find acceptance in hip London, but when we got there, we found exactly the same equation.

That was to be the situation for all of 1-2-3’s short life.

How did you get the residency at the Marquee club in London?

It was Archie who talked John Gee into giving us an audition. What we didn’t know at the time was that John was a musical snob, he thought “pop/rock” was rubbish. He loved jazz, to him, that was “proper” music.

When he heard us, he thought he had found the missing link, a pop band that played like a jazz band. He got people like Chris Barber down to hear us and sit in with us.

The gigs themselves were chaotic and revolutionary.

As in Scotland, half the audience were furious, fights were breaking out everywhere throughout the club, the other half—musicians—were ecstatic.

John came on stage a couple of times to restore calm. Being John, he had to say “If you want boring R & B, I suggest you fuck off to the 100 Club in Oxford Street”.

The atmosphere was electric. On our first gig, Roger Chapman of Family came into the dressing room—“Great stuff guys, but you’ll never get away with it”.

People like Robert Fripp and Keith Emerson would buttonhole us after the gigs, and Jon Anderson was always hanging about us asking questions and making comments about the music. Not just at The Marquee, but all over the country, 1-2-3 caused the same reaction. Quite often other musicians would be in tears, or hysterical, it was that radical, so different.

We knew we had made a fuss, people from the music business were drawn there to see us, Pete Townshend (as he mentions in his autobiography), and of course, Brian Epstein saw us and signed us up.

We were quite blasé about it all, being young, we thought it was our due! We also felt like we were “making it.” One big regret is not taking a photo of the lifesize picture of 1-2-3 in the Marquee foyer. 
 
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1-2-3 listed as ‘a great new group from Glasgow’ in this advert for the Marquee.
 
Did you know you were creating a new sound?

The sound took care of itself, we knew it was unique at the time, we were the first true Rock organ trio.

Other organ trios soon existed, but they were often more swing/jazz based, the organs were not played in a rock style, the music was soft, not rock. Organ had always been a background instrument until then, guitars led the field on stage till I came along.

Then came the music itself. It was a completely different concept from any other band at that time, that approach would still sound unique today. The arrangements were so radical, and each song had its own character, the band was not defined by any one song. Each song was merely an aspect of a band that took many forms and had no limits. Though all those other bands tried to copy us, it still didn’t end up anything like 1-2-3, all they took was the concept of music that sounded more like film tracks than three-minute songs.

What keyboards did you play and how did this change?

I began with a Gamages mini-keys organ, and then quickly to a Hohner Clavinet that my cousin put on stilts so I could stand and play rather than sit. When I joined the Premiers I graduated to a Vox Continental, then a Hammond M102.

Eventually, my instrument of choice was a Hammond C3. I had the biggest organ sound ever heard on a stage.

I also played everything like two right hands, two organists at once, it made the sound very powerful, octave or harmony solos, left hand as fast as the right.

Till I hit the stage, organs had always been background instruments, but I had no intention of being behind anyone, I wanted to be in front, be the leader.

Most organists then, and even much later (including Keith Emerson) were heavily influenced by the famous jazz organists like Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff, but I didn’t like the way the Jimmys and others played, it definitely wasn’t rock! I approached it all completely differently, I wasn’t influenced by anyone, I just played it all as I saw it, and made sure every note counted. I intended to blow any guitarist off the stage.

Rick Wakeman said recently that until synths came along, keyboard players couldn’t get in front of guitarists – that wasn’t true when it came to me – I didn’t do background for anybody.
 
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1-2-3 ‘have created an entirely new sound in pop group music.’
 
How did you get signed with The Beatles manager Brian Epstein?

The fuss we made at The Marquee brought many people down to see us, and Brian Epstein was one of them. He was smooth and charming, and almost aloof/superior. But then, he was The Beatles manager, so we expected that or saw it as his right. We weren’t overawed though. As I said, at that age, we thought it was our right too!

He said: “Sophisticated music must be presented in sophisticated clothes” and dressed us in pin-stripe suits with smart cravats. We looked a lot like The Jam did, only decades later. We thought nothing of it at the time, but in hindsight, it’s intriguing to wonder what he might’ve made of it all. He certainly seemed to understand something that others didn’t, perhaps that’s why he put us on that concert with Jimi Hendrix. Makes you wonder what might have happened had he lived long enough to do something about it.
 
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1-2-3 on the bill with Hendrix.
 
1-2-3’s residency at the Marquee in early 1967 introduced Prog Rock to the world and changed music. Can you tell me more about the response from other musicians?

It wasn’t just the residency at The Marquee – though that was obviously the most important and highest profile. As I said, the same thing happened all over the country, wild reactions and shock from other musicians and clued-in punters, hate and fury from the average punter, which should have told us something!

At The Marquee, as I said, it was Keith Emerson, Robert Fripp, Jon Anderson (not Ian Anderson, that connection came much later). I think the Moody Blues saw us when we were staying in Birmingham for a couple of months in a house rented for us by NEMS. I was friendly with Jeff Lynne (who was in The Idle Race at the time) and Bev Bevan (of The Move at that time) was a big fan. The Beatles in general never saw us play, but Paul McCartney used to see us at The Pheasantry club in Kings Road, Chelsea. His girlfriend Maggie was a waitress there. The DJ was John Anthony, who later produced Genesis and others. At the time of The Marquee, we seemed like we were at the centre of the storm.

What other musicians understood for the first time when they heard us was that songs didn’t have to be done in the format presented on a record.

Not only that, you could have different sections, different tempi, different forms of music all in the same piece. You could have inspirational playing and great melody at the same time. To The Nice/ELP, the concept of a rock organ trio playing classics previously reserved for orchestra and the Royal Festival Hall; to King Crimson, the concept of a song like “21st Century Schizoid Man”; to Yes, in particular, the idea of a band without any musical barriers and so on and so on…..

We didn’t know we were pioneering a whole new sound and movement as such, but we knew we were out there on our own in terms of creativity and power, there was nothing like 1-2-3 before or since.
 
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1-2-3 signed Brian Epstein’s NEMS management in 1967—what could possibly go wrong?
 
What happened to 1-2-3 after you signed for NEMS?

Only a couple of months after signing us, Brian Epstein died, and we were left in the hands of Robert Stigwood, who had just signed The Bee-Gees, and already managed Cream.

He didn’t know what to do with us, we were so different from any other band. He sent us on a cabaret tour between fire-eaters and jugglers. That tells you everything you need to know. He lost us our advantage.

How did 1-2-3 change into the band called Clouds?

After Brian Epstein died, and we left NEMS and Stigwood behind, we played some faceless gigs and fell by the wayside till Terry Ellis saw us in a club in Ilford called the Golden Glove.

Chrysalis didn’t exist then, it was only Terry and his partner Chris Wright in a tiny office in Regent Street. Chris managed Ten Years After, who were just beginning to make a name for themselves. Terry wanted his own band, and signed us. He insisted we change the name to Clouds – I hated that name, and I was right, 1-2-3 would have weathered the storm so much better.

He also insisted that the 1-2-3 too-clever-by-half material would have to be scrapped. The only song we were allowed to keep was “Sing-Sing-Sing,” because it was Harry’s drum solo. We never played any 1-2-3 material again, including “America,” which was seized on by Yes as a concept they used (though nowhere near as good in my opinion).

David Bowie used the concept of the middle section of our “America” as the opener in his “Concert for New York” appearance.

Bowie was a major fan of 1-2-3. He wrote a letter to the music press which hailed the group as ‘three thistle and haggis-voiced bairns had the audacity to face a mob of self-opinionated hippies, with a brand of unique pop music, which, because of its intolerance of mediocrity floated as would a Hogarth cartoon in [the children’s comic book] Beano.’

It’s quite funny for me to try and deal with all this Bowie thing now. A bit frustrating too, as people seem to think how privileged I was to know him, when in actual fact, at the time, it was him who wanted to know me!

He was bright, clever, a good conversationalist, we got on like a house on fire, though at the time, I thought of him essentially as a young gofer.

I met him first in Dundee when The Premiers were doing a gig with Johnny Kidd and The Pirates, and David’s band were also supporting. We got on, and vowed to meet in London when we eventually got there.

He came down The Marquee when he heard about us doing his song, and we quickly renewed our acquaintance.

When we played the Savile Theatre, I introduced David to Jimi Hendrix, something that has gone down in folklore and legend , as witness the V & A exhibition, where Japanese tourists are trailed round the capital and stood outside the site of The Savile Theatre, then told “This is where Billy Ritchie introduced David to Jimi Hendrix”. I find it quite amusing/bemusing. It seemed no big deal at the time. I similarly shocked Ian Anderson very recently when I told him that David had been in our dressing room (with Jethro Tull and Ten Years After at The Royal Albert Hall). Ian said “I don’t remember that!” But of course, he wouldn’t. David was just a bloke then, not the famous Thin White Duke…..
 
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David Bowie’s fan letter about 1-2-3 as sent to the Record Mirror.
 
More from the Father of Prog, Billy Ritchie, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Meet the Father of Prog Rock

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For some the question is Prog Rock—who’s to blame? But that’s more than a tad unfair. For at its heart Progressive Rock was about great musicianship—virtuoso players who played their instruments more like classical musicians than buskers. It may have been indulgent with endless noodling guitar solos, bass solos and eighteen-minute-long drum solos—but this should not detract from the high quality of musicianship which at the very least deserves tribute.

Most musical genres are born out the cross pollination of different musical styles. Usually there are one or two pioneers who can be credited with starting the whole thing off. In the case of Prog Rock that honor goes to one (not so very well known) Scot by the name of Billy Ritchie and his band 1-2-3.

Ritchie was born and raised in the small village of Forth—nestling midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Born the year of the D-Day landings, Ritchie started off his musical career playing harmonica as a boy. Coming from a working class family meant that owning a musical instrument was not one of life’s necessities. His talent as keyboard player may never have flourished had it not been for a neighbor throwing out an old piano. The piano was reclaimed and given a new home. Though in disrepair, Ritchie quickly taught himself to become a wizard on the ivories.

The facility with which he learned to play the piano made Ritchie think he was just an okay player. He didn’t fully appreciate his staggering musical talent as a pianist until he joined a band. While his fellow bandmates found it difficult to pick up on one of the more tricksy rock ‘n’ roll tracks—Ritchie could master the song—any song—after just one hearing.

He also had a great ability to improvise variations on any song—reinventing it as something altogether new. His talent for arrangement was to play a key part in the development of the Prog Rock gestalt. Another key was his choice of Hohner Clavinet as his preferred instrument. In the years of guitar bands no one played the organ and no one took the instrument seriously, but Billy Ritchie’s chosen keyboard (he later changed it to the Hammond organ) was another key influence in shaping the Prog Rock sound.
 
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Ritchie played with various bands eventually joining The Satellites in the early 1960s. He then joined up with another group—The Premiers who become the Prog Rock pioneers 1-2-3 around 1966—and were later renamed Clouds in 1968.

In 2011, Prog Archives interviewed the band about their earliest beginnings:

When, where and by whom was Clouds started ? Did any of you, past and present Clouds members, play in any other bands before joining up in Clouds? Why did you choose that name?

In 1964, Ian (Ellis) and Harry (Hughes) were playing together in a group called ‘The Premiers.’ The line-up of the band was two guitars, bass, drums (Harry), and vocalist (Ian). The band decided to recruit an organist, and Billy (Ritchie) joined (1965). Billy had been playing in a band called ‘The Satellites.’ The organ was so obviously the leading instrument, it changed the dynamic of the band, the lead guitarist left, the band fragmented, leaving just Ian, Billy, and Harry, and we decided to start a new band together.

We wanted to do something different, and as there were only three of us, we decided to call the band 1-2-3, it seemed a hip name, and something different, like the band itself. It was only much later (the winter of 1967) that we became Clouds. The name was chosen by our new manager, Terry Ellis. He felt we needed a fresh start and a new name. We never liked the name, we preferred 1-2-3.

Usually keyboard players are situated to the side and back when a band perform live, but Ritchie rejected this formation. He wanted to play up front, center stage under the spotlight. He was also one of the first—if not the very first—to play keys standing up. Sure Jerry Lee Lewis played standing up but he alternated between standing and sitting and occasionally even jumping on the piano. Ritchie didn’t.

Back to the interview:

Not many people know this, but Clouds was one of the first bands who combined rock and classic music. If not the first band, that is. Other bands like The Nice, Genesis, Procol Harum, Yes and ELP followed suit. How did you get this idea and how did this idea really take off in Clouds?

1-2-3 was the earliest band to play that form of music. It was only later that this style became part of what would be called progressive rock. We were certainly the only band around the Marquee and London scene playing that form of music, though experimentation was beginning to take place in other ways. Cream, and Pink Floyd, are the other names that spring to mind, though all three of us were trying new music from different directions. It just so happens that our music seemed to find a branch of its own in progressive channels. The basic idea was rewritten versions of pop music songs, and it all sprang from Billy, who had a very radical approach to the arrangements. He took the view that anything was possible, and there were no barriers. The blueprint he used was the exact model that Yes used a year or so later.

Ritchie was taking songs by other artists—sometimes songs that had as yet not been recorded—and turned them into something different—something exciting. He took Paul Simon’s “America” before it was recorded in 1968 and rearranged it onto a jazz—rock—proto-Prog song. He did the same with David Bowie’s “I Dig Everything.”
 
More on the birth of Prog Rock with Billy Ritchie and 1-2-3, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Mystic Sister / Magick Brothers: Gong live at Montserrat, 1973
11.19.2012
12:27 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Gong
Prog Rock

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Moody, atmospheric live film of Gong onstage in a cathedral in Montserrat in 1973 with the classic line-up of Tim Blake on synth, the late, great Pierre Moerlen on drums, Mike Howlett on bass, Didier Malherbe on sax and flute, Steve Hillage on guitar, and, of course, Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth.

Interesting to note how many older people were in attendance. What did they make of THIS?

Taken from the Gong at Montserrat 1973 DVD, which I highly recommend (cough, cough).
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
King Crimson performing ‘Larks’ Tongues in Aspic’ live on German TV, 1972
10.03.2012
01:20 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
King Crimson
Prog Rock

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Felted portrait of King Crimson circa 1972 by Wasawasawa

There’s not really all that much by way of film or video footage of the pre-80s incarnations of King Crimson. As in nearly none. Thankfully what does exist tends to be fantastic. Here’s an intense run-through of “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic” on Germany’s Beat Club TV show in 1972, with Robert Fripp, David Cross, John Wetton, Bill Bruford and Jamie Muir.

And speaking of Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, at the end of October, the album will be re-released as a “40th Anniversary Box Set,” a mammoth package with 13 CDs (including studio sessions and the first take of each song as it was laid down in the studio and 8 CDs of live audio, restored bootlegs and soundboard recordings), 1 DVD-A of Steve Wilson’s new 5.1 multichannel mix of the album, 1 Blu-Ray disc and more than 30 minutes of footage of the band in the studio, all contained in 12” box with booklet and other memorabilia and with a limited production run of just 7,000 units worldwide.

The album will also come out as a CD/DVD-A combo package with a new stereo mix and the 5.1 new surround mix, alt mixes by WIlson and the video footage; and as a more modest- priced two CD set.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Deep Purple’s Jon Lord dead at 71

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One time Deep Purple keyboardist, Jon Lord has died in London at the age of 71. In a band with such a continuously flucuating line-up, Lord was one of the heavy group’s few constant members, co-writing hits like “Smoke on the Water,” “Strange Kind of Woman” and “Black Night.” Lord played keyboards in Deep Purple from the band’s formation in 1968 through their first split in 1976 and when they reformed in 1984 until he retired from music in 2002.

The statement from his website reads:

It is with deep sadness we announce the passing of Jon Lord, who suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism today, Monday 16th July at the London Clinic, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Jon was surrounded by his loving family.

Jon Lord, the legendary keyboard player with Deep Purple co-wrote many of the bands legendary songs including Smoke On The Water and played with many bands and musicians throughout his career.

Best known for his Orchestral work Concerto for Group & Orchestra first performed at Royal Albert Hall with Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969 and conducted by the renowned Malcolm Arnold, a feat repeated in 1999 when it was again performed at the Royal Albert Hall by the London Symphony Orchestra and Deep Purple.

Jon’s solo work was universally acclaimed when he eventually retired from Deep Purple in 2002.

Jon passes from Darkness to Light.

Born in Leicester, June 9, 1941, Lord was a classically trained pianist, who originally planned a career as an actor. He attended the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, while keyboards (piano, Hammond organ) with various Jazz combos.

In 1960, he joined the jazz band the Bill Ashton Combo. He also worked a as session musician playing keyboards on The Kinks first hit “You Really Got Me”. During the mid-1960s, Lord formed and played with a variety of bands (including one with Ronnie Wood) before forming Deep Purple with Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Paice in 1968.

Deep Purple, along with Black Sabbath, pioneered Heavy Metal during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Purple had the edge through the Blackmore’s brilliant guitar-playing and Lord’s mastery of the keyboards (primarily the Hammond organ). Together they made Deep Purple one of the most exciting bands on the planet. Of particular merit was their ability to perform a classical album Concerto for Group and Orchestra, mainly under Lord’s influence, and one of Rock’s greatest albums Machine Head, mainly under Blackmore’s influence. It was this ability to try out each other’s musical ideas that made the band so successful. Or as Lord said in 1973:

‘We’re as valid as anything by Beethoven.’

After he left Deep Purple in 1976, Lord released a solo album Sarabande and then went on to join Whitesnake, remaining an integral part of the band until 1984.

Lord was a brilliant musician, whose talents went beyond his work in Rock and Heavy Metal. He wrote and released several classical music albums including The Gemini Suite , Windows and To Notice Such Things. He also had a fruitful collaboration with the singer Sam Brown on the albums, Before I Forget, the concept album, Picture Within and Beyond the Notes.

Jon Lord 9 June 1941 – 16 July 2012.
 

 
Bonus: Deep Purple in concert from New York, 1973, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Floating Anarchy: Gong, live on French TV, 1973

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Considering how much I love the shit out of Daevid Allen and Gong, I’ve only posted about them once before on DM??? How can that be?

Well then, here’s to making up for that grievous oversight with something so fucking good it might cause you to have an out-of-body experience: Two insanely great live Gong performances from French television in 1973 on a show called Rockenstock.

First, the band do a ripping version of “I’ve Never Been Glid” that sounds extremely close to the studio version on Angels Egg except that Daevid Allen mischievously changes the song’s last line, “That’s another story, now it’s time to go and have a cup of tea see” to “That’s another story, now it’s time to go and smoke another roach.” (“Glidding” is how the Pot Head Pixes fly the teapots, if you are confused…)

I love the way that Allen’s trippy hippy dancing seems to “conduct” the group. Dig Steve Hillage’s “lewd guitar, Pierre Moerlen’s drums (the man was a god of rhythmic pounding, up there with Jaki Liebezeit), Tim Blake’s spacey VCS3 and synth-work,  the great Mike Howlett’s booming, tight, bass-lines and Didier Malherbe’s anarchic sax riffs. This is Gong at the height of their power and they absolutely crush it..
 

 
After the jump, “space whisperer” Gilli Smyth performs a mind-melting version of “Witch’s Song/I Am Your Pussy” from Flying Teapot.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Curved Air: Live on ‘Musikladen’ from 1971
12.10.2011
05:06 pm

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
Curved Air
Prog Rock
Musikladen

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British psychedelic prog. rockers Curved Air perform “Propositions” and “Vivaldi (With Canons)” on the classic German TV show Musikladen, March 1971.

This is the first incarnation of Curved Air, which consisted of Sonja Kristina - lead vocals; Rob Martin - bass; Francis Monkman - guitars, keyboards; Florian Pilkington-Miksa - drums; Darryl Way - violin, backing vocals. Their appearance on Musikladen came a few months after the release of their debut album Airconditioning, a pioneering work, which reached number 8 in the UK charts, but did little elsewhere. It was also the first picture disc, released in a limited edition of 100,000.

Their second album Second Album captured Curved Air’s unique mix of Progressive Rock and acoustic folk music, and netted the band their first hit single “Back Street Luv”. The band then went through various changes, including stints with Mike Wedgwood as bass guitarist, and Eddie Jobson on keyboards and violin. Wedgwood went onto fellow Prog Rockers, Caravan, while Jobson went on to Roxy Music.

Curved Air has continued under various line-ups and still play today, but this is them near the beginning, when they were considered “one of the most dramatically accomplished of all the bands”.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

British 70s Prog/Folk Rockers Curved Air

 
Bonus clip of Curved Air’s ‘Phantasmagoria’, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment