Reading the ‘tags’ above, you’d be forgiven for thinking there had been some kind of editorial cock-up. Ska & Blue Beat? Yes, obviously, if you played the track above. Prog / progressive rock? Eh?
Read on – I shall explain.
Locomotive (initially billed as The Locomotive)were formed in Birmingham, England, during 1965, by trumpet playing jazz musician, Jim Simpson. (Jim is on the far right of the opening image, above.) The original line-up, which wasn’t to last too long, also boasted Chris Wood (bottom left of photo) who would leave towards the end of 1966 to join forces with Jim Capaldi, Steve Winwood and Dave Mason, to form Traffic.
There had been several personnel changes throughout 1966 and Chris’s departure left only Jim Simpson of the original line-up.
Amongst those enlisted to the new line-up was keyboard player Norman Haines who had previously played with The Brum Beats. Norman worked in a record shop in the Smethwick area of Birmingham which had a large West Indian population. The shop would meet the local demand for ska and blue-beat records, and Norman himself became a big fan of the genre.
His influence was brought to bear with the release of the ‘new’ band’s first single ‘Broken Heart.’Written by Haines, it had a blue-beat feel, but was drenched in soulful vocals and horns.
Other than the track itself, there are two interesting facts about this release:
1) it was the last records to be played on the original ‘Jukebox Jury’ television programme … and voted a ‘Miss.’ And it was.
2) the B-side was a cover of Dandy Livingstone‘s ‘Rudy, A Message To You,‘ which would become a hit for The Specials some twelve years later.
The following year, saw the band spend eight weeks in the UK charts, peaking at number twenty-five, with ‘Rudi’s In Love.‘ (This single would be reissued in both 1971 and 1980 during the respective periods of skinhead and two tone popularity, the latter being when I myself bought a copy.)
The remaining original band member, Jim Simpson left in 1968 to concentrate on music management … and did reasonably well, I’d say, going on to eventually look after Black Sabbath.
With a ‘hit’ single and lots of airplay behind them, an album deal beckoned and in early 1969, the lead single from the soon to be released, ‘We Are Everything You See’ long player hit the shops.
You will of course have detected a change in Locomotive’s musical direction!
Opening with a short classical piece, ‘Overture,‘ the album then progresses into blend of psychedelic, jazz and soul. Listening to ‘Mr Armageddan’ puts me in mind of some Paul Weller / Style Council type songs that would follow, the best part of forty years later.
‘Lay Me Down Gently‘ in parts echos The Small Faces, while the Nigel Phillips (three part) composition ‘The Loves of Augustus Abbey‘ has that prog-rock reflection of medieval England.
It’s most certainly an adventurous release. However, as great as it sounds, and no matter the positive music press reviews , the album pretty much bombed as it was released to a somewhat confused fanbase.
Perhaps understandably, established fans of the ska-infused Locomotive did not take to the new prog- rock imbued version of the band. Likewise, the new target audiences regarded them as a bit ‘poppy,’ and were reluctant to buy in.
The follow-up single, ‘I’m Never Gonna Let You Go,’ a cover of the ? and The Mysterions song, also missed the charts.
As a result, Parlophone delayed the album’s release. It did eventually see the light of day in February 1970, but by this time, Norman had left the band and in effect, Locomotive no longer existed.
With no promotion or marketing, sales were unsurprisingly poor, and the album was quickly withdrawn, marking it a rare collector’s item, with copies at time of writing for sale via Discogs at upwards of £500!
Norman would go on to form Sacrfice, later to be known simply as The Norman Haines Band. Remaining band members Bob Lamb (who would later join The Steve Gibbons Band) Mick Hincks, John Caswell and Keith Millar would record one more single before changing the band name to The Dog That Bit People.
Yeah – while the ability to diversify is a great attribute, I wonder how things would have turned out had the band simply avoided any confusion and conflict of fanbase by changing their name prior to releasing the album.
(Throughout their time, I count twenty musicians who played with the band. The following are those I believe were involve with the album’s recording.)
Norman Haines – Keyboards / Vocals
Bill Madge – Saxophone
Mick Hincks – Bass / Vocals
Bob Lamb – Drums
Mick Taylor – Trumpet
Dick Heckstall-Smith – Saxophone (session musician)
Henry Lowther – Trumpet (session musician)
Chris Mercer – Saxophone (session musician)
|Broken Heart||7″ single||1967||Direction|
|Rudi’s In Love||7″ single||1968||Parlophone|
|I’m Never Gonna Let You Go||7″ single||1969||Parlophone|
|Mr. Armageddan||7″ single||1969||Parlophone|
|Roll Over Mary||7″ single||1970||Parlophone|
|We Are Everything You See||LP||1970||Parlophone|
(** Reference was made to the brumbeat.net website in preparation of this piece. **)