Haymarket Square are yet another example of the brilliant, psychedelic sounds coming from the USA musical underground of the late ’60s through the early 1970s..
Like many other bands featured here on Loud Horizon, they would record only one LP in their time together. But boy – what a doozy! Copies of the original pressing have been sold via Discogs from between £1500 and £2700!
The band came about with the demise of Chicago garage band, The Real Things. As the young band parted for college and other personal reasons, drummer John Kowalski and rhythm guitarist Bob Roma decided to form a new outfit.
Auditions were advertised in their University of Illinois newspaper and other local rags. Guitarist Marc Swenson immediately impressed with his ability to play in the style of The Kinks‘ Dave Davies. No question – he was hired right away!
With an impressive guitarist in place, Bob moved over onto bass. There was now just one integral position to be filled – that of vocalist.
Desperation was setting in on the three young players (John & Bob were 18, Marc, just 17) when out of the blue, Bob received a phone call from the twenty year old, tall, blond Gloria Lambert. She was at that time singing in a Folk band but was looking for something a bit more ‘electric;’ something more raucous and exciting. Gloria, as you can hear on the tracks here, was so strong in her delivery and had that sort of Grace Slick, psychedelic feel to her tone.
It was the perfect match.
This was 1967, and female singers taking on lead vocals in rock bands was at this point, still relatively unusual. The band were already almost one step ahead of other Chicago bands.
Now for a name. Civil disobedience was rife amongst the US student population at this point, and when John Kowalski saw a statue marking a labour riot back in the early 1900s he adopted the name of the location – Haymarket Square.
It wasn’t long before the band’s name and reputation grew to such level that they were opening in the city’s larger venues for established acts like, The Yarbirds, Cream and H.P. Lovecraft.
Shortly thereafter, they were writing their own material with subject matter ranging from various psychedelic topics to the occult. Their sound has a very distinctive feel with the guitar, bass and drums all sharing the heavy load. What struck me though was the drumming – at times very ‘surf’ inspired, and others, more of a pounding, hard rock style. The guitar wails with a fuzzy tone throughout and the bass is played with a real, distinctive bounce. And of course, there’s no getting away from Gloria’s vocals giving an air of Jefferson Airplane.
Only one of the tracks on the album is a ‘cover’ – an outstanding version of Tiny Bradshaw’s ‘Train Kept-A-Rollin’.’ This version tops those of Johnny Burnette and Aerosmith in my opinion.
There are only six tracks on the album too – but with only one coming in at less than seven minutes, there is that wonderful sense of tripped out jamming on the others.
The album is a direct result of the band liaising with two professors from The University of Illinois who put together the ‘Baron & Bailey Light Circus’ which was a dynamic combination of music with changing light patterns. In the summer of ’68, they teamed up with Haymarket Square and the album was exhibited as a living work of art at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
However, shortly after the album was recorded, original member Bob left the band and was replaced on bass by Ken Pitlik. At the same time, they decided to augment their sound with the addition of a rhythm guitarist, Robert Miller.
Haymarket Square continued as a five-piece for another six years before they finally broke up in 1974, the members all going heir own ways.
Sadly, and I’m afraid I don’t know why, there were no more recordings. But if you’re going to leave just a one-album-legacy, then I guess ‘Magic Lantern‘ is about as good as it gets.
(*Band details and history have been gleaned from the additional sleeve-notes to the ‘Magic Lantern’ album, written by drummer and founder member, John Kowalski.)
Gloria Lambert – Vocals
John Kowalski -Drums
Bob Roma – Bass (’til late ’68)
Marc Swenson – Guitar
+ from late ’68
Ken Pitlik – Bass
Robert Miller – Rhythm Guitar
|Magic Lantern||LP||1968||Chaparral||Original pressing has sold for over £2600 on Discogs.|