Tag Archives: prog rock

khan

(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – July 2022.)

‘The Canterbury Tales’ – Geoffrey Chaucer

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licóur
Of which vertú engendred is the flour

So wrote Geoffrey Chaucer in the prologue to his seminal work The Canterbury Tales between 1387-1400.

Fast forward some 600 years and lazy music critics coined the phrase The Canterbury Scene as all music, it seems, needs to be pigeonholed and labelled. Like all misnomer’s not every act associated with the movement had any real link to Canterbury. Case in point, the band Gong were formed in Paris which as far as I’m aware is not a suburb of any Kentish town or village.

It all came about in the mid sixties with local lads The Wilde Flowers who, when wilted, germinated into Soft Machine, Gong, Caravan, Egg, Matching Mole, Robert Wyatt, Hatfield and the North and National Health.

The whole Canterbury sound was a heady mix of psychedelia, anarchy, folkloric mythology, beat poetry and puns. Soft Machine is the title of a William Burroughs novel and Matching Mole a corruption of  machine molle, the french translation of Soft Machine. Perhaps a bit of a dig from sacked drummer Robert Wyatt. For Girls that Go Plump In The Night and Cunning Stunts were albums from Caravan. All terribly quirky and quintessentially English.

Steve Hillage

In among this bunch of posies was a young London born guitarist, Steve Hillage. While still at school, Hillage was in a band called Uriel with his keyboard playing chum Dave Stewart, not to be confused with the Eurythmics chappy. They were encouraged to change their name as it sounded too close to urine (or was someone taking the piss !) and so became Egg.

Hillage attended the University of Kent in Canterbury (there’s the link !) and jammed with local bands Caravan and Spirogyra, not to be confused with the smooth jazz outfit Spyro Gyra. He landed himself a record deal with Deram and set about putting a band, Khan, together. After a few incarnations, the line up for their only release Space Shanty were Hillage on guitars and vocals, former The Crazy World of Arthur Brown bassist and vocalist Nick Greenwood, fellow Egg alumni Stewart and drummer Eric Peachey.

KHAN: ‘Space Shanty.’

This 1972 release, in my humble opinion, is a progressive rocker’s wet dream. Long convoluted tracks with nonsensical lyrics, great guitar solos swaying from hard rock to jazz, luscious fuzzed organ and odd time signatures. The musicianship by all four players is commendable. Sadly there was to be no follow up.

Hillage moved on to Gong (in some French speaking corner of Kent no doubt) before becoming a solo artist.

Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin

Stewart formed Hatfield and the North then National Health. Along with former Zombie, Colin Blunstone he had a minor hit with What Became Of The Broken Hearted and It’s My Party with Barbara Gaskin.

Chaucer didn’t include a guitarist’s tale in his magnum opus. Nor a lute player or any other kind of musician either. In different times I’m sure he would have had a few kind words to say about Mr Hillage and his Khan clan.

Khan poster 1971

KHAN

Steve Hillage – Guitar / Vocals
Nick Greenwood – Bass / Vocals
Dave Stewart – Organ
Eric Peachey – Drums

TITLEFORMATYEARLABELNOTES
Space ShantyLP1972DeramTheir only album recording.

hellmet

Leviathan were a respected psychedelic rock band from Brighton who, being one of the first British bands to be signed to the Elektra label, recorded three singles in 1969. They also recorded and album, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t released.

In autumn of that year, they split, and drummer Gary Murphy, perhaps a bit disillusioned at the non-release of the album, decided to take a break from the music business.

He was initially adamant, but having been approached by two very persistent ex-members of another Brighton band, The Motion, he eventually relented and agreed to play a jam session …. an that was it! He was hooked.

Hellmet were born.

A month or two later, while on a train journey and discussing just what direction their music should follow, they were overheard by one John Tobler, a respected music reviewer of the time and editor of the underground, Zig Zag magazine.

He took the band under his wing and wrote their first review, in his magazine. He also arranged gigs supporting likes of Groundhogs and Blodwyn Pig, and secured them a slot at the famed Marquee Club venue. All good, high exposure.

As a result of their gigging and growing reputation, they were then approached later in 1970 by local Brighton business who wanted to diversify and break into music management. It was they who financed the recording session at Orange Studios.

An album’s worth of tracks were laid down, but despite the master tapes being hawked around various record labels, no offer of a deal was forthcoming. The acetate, having passed through so many hands, was subsequently lost, and as with his previous band, Leviathan, drummer Gary Murphy had nothing to show for his commitment. The band folded.

(Lucky white heather, eh?)

As seems to happen with surprising regularity, the ‘masters’ somehow turned up fifty years later, and now the album has been made available by Seelie Court.

Musically, the five tracks cover several rock bases: ‘Hazy Shady Lady’ is a blues infused hard rocker; ‘Trust,’ has a Black Sabbath type riff and passes through a few mood and tempo changes, like all good prog tracks are require to do! At times, I’m reminded also of Led Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused.’ That type of song. ‘Judgement Day (Honest Religion)‘ is a rather sad melodic song about heroin addiction.

‘Sweet Bitch‘ is the first of only two tracks on side two. It’s another standard hard rocker, It’s fast and angry and I’d say my favourite on the album. Album closer ‘What is The Point (Of it All?) is another in the heavy rock mould, but with a jazzy interlude.

I have to say, I’m a bit confused though. The band name, album cover and especially the six paintings of Lucifer that adorn the inside of the gatefold sleeve, seem to contradict the image of the band (see above) and the music they produced.

Overall though, it’s been met with some excitement from collectors of prog rock albums and it’s great to see bands from all these years ago finally get recognition for their creativity.

HELLMET

Terry Aitken – Vocals
Stephen Day – Guitar
Ray Mellors -Bass
Gary Murphy – Drums

TITLEFORMATYEARLABELNOTES
Judgement DayLP1970*Seelie Court* Recorded in 1970 but only released in 2021 by Seelie Court.

locomotive

LOCOMOTIVE: first incarnation, 1965 photo credit, JIM SIMPSON

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.

(I love this track! The B-side to Mr Amagedddon)

LOCOMOTIVE
(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)

TITLEFORMATYEARLABELNOTES
Broken Heart7″ single1967Direction
Rudi’s In Love7″ single1968Parlophone
I’m Never Gonna Let You Go7″ single1969Parlophone
Mr. Armageddan7″ single1969Parlophone
Roll Over Mary 7″ single1970Parlophone
We Are Everything You SeeLP1970Parlophone


(** Reference was made to the brumbeat.net website in preparation of this piece. **)