Archive for the ‘The Strawbs’ Category

Steeleye Span

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Listen: Hard Times Of Old England / Steeleye Span

I can completely understand why some folks found Maddy Prior’s voice grating. Never really noticed until now, all these years later. Sometimes I’m clearly asleep at the wheel. For instance, during the commercial heyday of southern rock, I couldn’t for the life of me get why the US was not into Roy Wood’s Wizzard or Sparks. So there you go.

Folk rock, as with jazz, seems allowed to deal themselves the occasional out of jail free card. In the case of a voice, there are plenty of folkies who get appreciated, where in any other genre, that same person would be considered unacceptable. The Incredible String Band or The Pentangle’s Jacqui McShee come to mind.

Whatever. ‘Hard Times Of Old England’ was a big favorite when current. I played the hell out of it on my college station, not exactly a fit in upsate New York.

Although the single was not a UK chart success, unlike some of Steeleye Span’s other releases, one would have thought it might turn into an anthem, ever present on pub jukeboxes across the land. A bit like The Strawbs‘ ‘Part Of The Union’.

The record certainly got embraced by the BBC heavily, the public just didn’t buy it.

The Strawbs

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

strawbsbenedictus, Strawbs, Tony Visconti, Tom Allom, A&M

Listen: Benedictus /The Strawbs StrawbsBenedictus.mp3

I heard ‘Benedictus’ on my local Top 40 station, once, in the middle of the afternoon. It was WNDR, the tight playlisted one as well. Huh? It sounded so out of place – and indeed pretty great. In the mix of then current nastiness, like Three Dog Night and Jim Croce, it made me believe there might be hope for the radio again, for a good couple of months even. Not so. As much as I tried to catch it once more at least, I never did. And I could not find the single – no surprise. I’d seen The Strawbs’ albums in stores, and despite my then soft spot for English folk, I never did spring for one, until now. I had to have this song. Years later I found the above promo. Probably not all that rare, so if you see one, get it.

strawbslaydownuka, Strawbs, Tony Visconti, Tom Allom, A&M

Listen: Lay Down / The Strawbs StrawbsLayDown.mp3

‘Lay Down’ was starting to indicate these guys just might be churning out some great 7′s consistantly. By now I was nicely ensconced at my college radio station, where everyone only wanted to play, and steal, albums, so the singles were a free for all. A&M would send out stock copies often instead of promos, and I was so happy when one arrived. Released simultaneously in the UK, where it reached #12, meant I had it before I even had to worry about getting it. I was jonesing to live in England by this point. To walk around the house or drive in the car and be able to hear this stuff on the radio – enough reason to figure out a way to get there. That was around the corner.

strawbspartuka, Strawbs, Tony Visconti, Tom Allom, A&M

Listen: Part Of The Union / The Strawbs StrawbsUnion.mp3

“Part Of The Union’ might be one of those songs that folks in the UK still cringe at, simply because it was played everywhere, forever. A #2 in early ’73, it was still a pub singalong by that summer, when I finally made my way to London. Like Jeff Beck’s ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’, I never did tire of it.

Just a few months prior, in April, I had to make a torturous decision. The Pretty Things and The Strawbs were playing the same night, at different venues. How fucked up was this? I chose The Pretty Things. Til this day, I have never seen The Strawbs.


Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Indian Summer / Audience

Indian Summer / Audience

Listen: Indian Summer / Audience
Indian Summer / Audience

It Brings A Tear / Audience - US

Listen: It Brings A Tear / Audience
It Brings A Tear / Audience

Listen: You’re Not Smiling / Audience
You're Not Smiling / Audience

AudienceStandUKA, Audience, Charisma, Howard Werth

You're Not Smiling / Audience UK

You're Not Smiling / Audience - UK

Stand By The Door / Audience

Listen: Stand By The Door / Audience
Stand By The Door / Audience

I really shouldn’t like Audience. I’d have done a lot better in school had it not been for them. I could have been a doctor or something. Instead, I spent seemingly an entire Fall semester possessed by their album, THE HOUSE ON THE HILL. It wasn’t just me. My two room mates Larry and Stewart caught the Audience sickness as well. We would literally listen to this album over and over and over. Lights low, candles, pot, huge Audience poster hanging squarely above the turntable (still have it – neatly folded and slid inside the album with the label bio and 8×10′s). We were all entrenched at the college radio station, WITR. We pretty much ran the joint. I was both the music director and program director, not to mention concert chairman. It was English bands and only English bands. If you didn’t like it – transfer out. Every night we’d come back to the apartment with the latest promos that had arrived from the labels. We weren’t in the dorms – we had a proper apartment with very little furniture, lots of mis-matched pillows, orange shag rug and a low coffee table covered in music magazines and drug utensils. Mattresses on the floor in each bedroom – no beds, cardboard boxes for dressers. The records were everywhere, cinder blocks and clapboards constructing many makeshift shelves. Emergency suitcase record players in each bedroom for late night listening too. So we would whirl through the latest offerings: Greenslade, Byzantium, Atomic Rooster, Colosseum, Chicken Shack, If, Family, Juicy Lucy, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, just endless titles. But THE HOUSE OFN THE HILL would start and end the sessions, with a few plays during as well. You could really justify fucking off to it, nothing was more important, it was that good.

I’d heard ‘Indian Summer’ on the radio just before school went into session, must have been late August. Wow – what was that?!? It stood right out and was getting that suspicious two week window of play at Top 40. They called this being tested, and if good results came back, then they’d really hang you out for payola. Isn’t American radio great!!! This sophisticated British sounding song in between Andy Kim and Lobo, or whatever. Yes, I paid attention. I remember the single charted briefly on the Billboard Top 100 too.

During the following winter, I made one of my life’s biggest mistakes. I missed Audience live on their brief, and only, US tour. Gasp. They were opening for The Faces. It was a Sunday night, in Buffalo, about 80 miles away. I had no car, no one did, and no money to get there and certainly no way to get home. I watched the clock that evening, knowing they were playing so close yet so freaking far away. Why didn’t I just hitch hike? Risk being murdered – no brainer. But I didn’t and they never returned. Still bothers me to this day.

Such beautiful music. I know that sounds well corny but just listen. Howard Werth’s shivering vocals, Keith Gemmell’s signature sax that years later The Psychedelic Furs would unknowingly coin, just the right touch of baroque classical trimmings, not stuffy or overdone. The Strawbs, Amazing Blondel and ELO were klutzy klompy plodding wannabes next to Audience. Mind you, Audience had a wonderfully sloppy feel as well. But it was a magical balance and no one ever came close to matching it.

I’ve posted a bunch of Audience mandatories above. That first US 7″ is a classic double sider, and the promo only UK sleeve that housed ‘You’re Not Smiling’ is a prized possession. Isn’t even in the price guide. ‘Stand By The Door’, their final single is simply a perfect masterpiece.