18th August 2021: Prog legends Caravan announce the release of their new album It’s None Of Your Business to be released on CD format on 8th October 2021 and as a vinyl LP, on 8th November, on Madfish Music
It’s None Of Your Business is Caravan’s first album since Paradise Filter (2013) and features nine new songs plus one instrumental track influenced, to a degree, by the events and restrictions placed on society over the past 18 months.
Caravan are Pye Hastings (guitar, vocals). Geoffrey Richardson (viola, mandolin, guitar), Jan Schelhaas (keyboards) and Mark Walker (drums). Lee Pomeroy (ELO, Rick Wakeman and Take That) has guested as bass player, following the departure of Jim Leverton, while Jimmy Hastings has also guested on flute.
The album was recorded, as restrictions allowed, ‘in the old-fashioned way’ between 24th June and 4th July 2021 at Rimshot Studio, Bredgar near Sittingbourne. “Sitting round in a circle having eye to eye contact, a large sound room was required,” Pye Hastings explained. “I much prefer this method because you can bounce ideas off each other as they occur, and voice encouragement when the whole thing begins to click.
“And it is much more rewarding to be able to throw insults at each other in person rather than down a telephone line or via email. This is something we are all very experienced at, believe me!”
This togetherness characterises It’s None Of Your Business with Caravan’s trademark warmth and humour and, also, a sensitivity reflecting the times in which we are living. Sitting among Caravan’s typically whimsical tales Down From London and If I Was To Fly sit the heartfelt and poignant Spare A Thought and Every Precious Little Thing which looks forward to a return to normality.
“’Spare a Thought’ is a song that I hope will jog people to remember those unfortunate people caught up in the pandemic,” Hastings explains. “‘All those people who denied’ refers to the idiots who don’t follow the scientific advice. I get angry about that and the line ‘Sure are interesting times’ refers to an old Chinese saying: ‘may you live in interesting times’”
“Lyrics can sometimes be my Achilles Heel, trying to find anything meaningful to write about. But sitting in front of a blank screen with a pandemic raging all around, it was hard not to be influenced by the dreadful events going on. The lockdown certainly focused the mind when it came to writing the lyrics.”
It’s None Of Your Businesscover and artwork has been created by renowned illustrator Bob Venables
Caravan will also be on tour, supporting the release of their new album, in the UK in October:
Wednesday 6th October Basingstoke The Haymarket
Thursday 7th October Islington The Union Chapel
Friday 8th October Brighton/Hove The Old Market
Thursday 14th October Chester The Live Rooms
Friday 15th October Leeds The Bridenwell
Saturday 16th October Bury The Met
Sunday 17th October Wolverhampton The Robin 2 (Bilston)
Thursday 21st October Bury St Edmunds The Apex
Friday 22nd October Newcastle The Cluny
Saturday 23rd October Glasgow Òran Mór
Wednesday 27th October Bristol The Fleece
Thursday 28th October Exeter The Phoenix
Friday 29th October Dover The Booking Hall
Caravan are one of the doyens of the progressive rock and the ‘Canterbury scene’, formed in 1968 and blending rock, jazz, folk and classical influences into a warm and distinctive sound.
Founder member Pye Hastings (guitar/vocals) remains as Caravan’s guiding light and primary songwriter. Geoffrey Richardson (viola, mandolin, guitar) first played with Caravan between 1972 and 1981 and returned to the fold in 1995. Their previous 14 studio albums and numerous live recordings have seen them attract a large and faithful following and Caravan toured regularly until the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have a UK tour scheduled for October 2021 and have interest, from abroad, for overseas tours to Japan, Canada and South America.
The legends of the Canterbury scene band are being celebrated in a lavish 37-disc box set, entitled Who Do You Think We Are, released on Madfish on 20th August.
Caravan – It’s None of Your Business Released on 8th October
A while back I had written an overview of the CD releases from The Bolton Iron Maiden. The band was around in the first half of the ’70s as Iron Maiden, and by the time they’d ended another band that would become one of the biggest Heavy Metal bands of all-time had began, unknowingly, using the same name. So, the band’s drummer / singer / writer Paul O’Neill went on to release a few CDs under The Bolton Iron Maiden name, as well as a solo album. More recently he released a new album – Puppet Master : The Rise and Rise of Slick Dandy.
Iron Maiden, as they were known in the early ’70s were one of many British bands that played regularly live, and struggled for years to get to the next level – a recording contract, which would elude the band. But they did lay down a few originals in the studio at one point, and a number of their originals survived on taped live gigs, which were used for the 2005 release Maiden Flight. And aside from Steve Harris’ Iron Maiden, Paul O’Neill’s band would not be the only ones who used the name.
In this interview Paul talks about the band’s early days, recordings, the band name, the CD releases, and his latest album, among other things. It’s a fascinating look at a working band that was a part of the scene, but without making a huge impact. They are an interesting tale due to their name and timing, but would [in later years] put out some fine early ’70s hard rock, and O’Neill would go on to have a career in theater and create more music decades later. *For more info on the band and CD releases, check out the official website – http://theboltonironmaiden.com/
When you guys decided on the name ‘Iron Maiden’ did it have any sort of musical intentions [ie being a heavier or darker band, etc]. And were you aware at all of anyone else using the name prior to?
Oh yes – we wanted a STRONG heavy name from our previous name “BIRTH” Musically we wanted to be a heavy rock band similar to Cream, Free, The Who, Iron Butterfly, Mountain, Black Sabbath and the new band all the rage – Led Zeppelin. Derek (I believe) came up with the idea for “Iron Maiden” and we loved it!
We had no idea there was anyone else using that name. We appeared in the musical papers of the time, Melody Maker, New Musical Express, Sounds etc, and it was only ever our Iron Maiden. I only discovered this other lot (from Basildon) in 2005!
One interesting but sad thing is that my wife was badly attacked and nearly murdered in May 1976. I was walking back from visiting her in the hospital one Thursday and bought the Melody Maker on the way home. I opened it up to my fave pages – the gig guide at the back – and saw Iron Maiden playing at a pub in London? I knew it could not be us. Beak at the time was ill with cancer. I have often thought that Beak, who sadly died two months later, was the person who (according to Steve Harris) rang the pub and said “you can’t use that name – it’s already being used”. The only way I could ever find that out, would be to buy Steve a pint and ask him. Beak had a very distinctive voice, and I would be able to tell if it was him.
Another sad tale is – although (the new) Iron Maiden and Rod were VERY supportive of us, and helped me enormously, a London paper called “The Metro” came to see me for an interview, and I was telling him all about what was happening. I mentioned a famous national Paper – The Sunday Mail wanted me to “dish the dirt” on Iron Maiden, for a headline they wanted “They Stole My Name, They Stole My Fame”
I told them the name was never stolen – we were happy for the boys to use it – we had stopped playing when Beak died.
Next day – across the centre pages of the Metro was They Stole My Name, They Stole My Fame. Rod has not spoken to me since – although I did get them to print a retraction – the damage was done. So the famous phrase “any publicity is good publicity” in our case – this was a killer. They have not contacted me or allowed any contact from me since 2006. Copy of article attached.
I would still love to have the conversation with Steve!
At your site there is mention of a few of the band’s Iron Maiden opened for. Aside from The Thin Lizzy story, can you recall a few memorable gigs opening for any other ‘name bands? And would you recall the biggest show[S] you did in crowd size? [any festivals?]
We played and opened for quite a few bands in our time playing mainly colleges.
I suppose I have to mention Judas Priest. We played with them a lot, they were good, but we thought we were better and did not like “being second on the bill” to them.
The very first open air gig we did was in Queens Park in Bolton. They had an old bandstand in the park and they used it for the first time for pop and rock music. It was about 1968 or 69. The main band had a magnetic magical lead singer – his name was Freddie Mercury!! The name of the band was Ibex(there is an article on our Facebook page ) https://www.facebook.com/theboltonnews/photos/a.190634877684580/2352381964843183/
Procul Harum at Salford College was a great night – we got there as they were sound checking and they were playing a reggae version of “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”. Mick Grabham was the guitarist that night. Years later – I met Mick who was playing with Don Airey (now Deep Purple) at a local pub where Don lives. We stood at the bar chatting and the subject of the reggae version came up and I (reluctantly) told him my band name – It was always awkward – because IM were SO famous – it always sounded like I was making a story up. No one knew we existed. However, Mick choked on his drink when I told him, and said – “Ahhh The Iron Maiden from Manchester!” I said “yes” had he went on to tell me – he and the others from the band, knowing that we played a support gig with them in the early ’70’s – went one night to see them (Iron Maiden) play. Went backstage after and said “Hi Guys it’s Procul Harum – we’ve come to see you” – They were met with blank stares!
Mick told me they couldn’t believe “we” (actually Steve’s band) didn’t remember them. Now he knew why – and phoned Gary and the guys from the pub we were in to let them know.
Supertramp. Another gig at Manchester uni. The band were a three piece when we first met them – at Manchester, they were a five piece and wow! what a band – no wonder they went on to super stardom.
The Groundhogs. We loved the Groundhogs and at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton we were very pleased to be playing support for the Groundhogs – only problem was one of our best numbers was “Cherry Red” by the Groundhogs. We had to take a chance and play it BEFORE they played it again!
A good thing too, because when it came to doing the covers album Boulton Flies Again I had to contact Tony McPhee, to allow us to use “Cherry Red” on the Album. He not only remembered us, but told me I was singing all the wrong words to the song! He corrected my lyrics, and let us use “Cherry Red” with no fee whilst it was generating charity money for Cancer. Then to top that – Tony and his missus actually SOLD copies of Boulton Flies Again at gigs they did in 2007/8. A proper gent and a REAL rock and roller! (if you listen to Cherry Red on BFA album, you can hear me trying to correct the incorrect vocal line. Tony wrote it about a hot blooded love affair – I thought I was singing about murdering your girlfriend.
UFO – a great heavy band – we played with them at the Drill Hall Bolton. (see notes on SAG)
Bloodwyn Pig at Manchester Uni. It was a real highlight to meet Mick Abrahams – he was a hero from Jethro Tull, who we all admired.
Solution (they were a Dutch band – friends of Focus) We played support for Solution at BIT (Bolton Institute of Technology) in Bolton, They were on tour at the time. They rolled up with no gear, and had to use ours. We stayed in touch for quite a long time. Wonderful band and brilliant musicians. Tommy Barlage the saxophonist wrote the tune “Divergence” which became “Tommy” on Moving Waves for Focus. I met them a few weeks later in a café in Manchester – where they were support band for my hero’s – Gentle Giant.
Caravan – at Mr Smiths in Manchester. Brilliant band – Loved the song “If I could do it again, I’d do it all over you”
David Bowie – we were not actually a warm up band – we played the famous Magic Village in Manchester and finished about 11. From then and through the night, artistes who were about would call in and just play. About 2am – a guy came in. We had no idea who it was – he sat crossed legged and played an acoustic and sang with no PA. We heard the song “The Man Who Sold The World” – but had no clue who this was until we heard the album!!!
Cozy Powell and Bedlam. We opened for Bedlam at BIT . Our claim to fame is that we were louder than them! That was important to us at the time! Cozy had a kit twice the size of mine, played it beyond my dreams – but I was louder!
Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come – at Bolton Technical College – a gig not to be missed, Arthur was using a Bentley drum machine – it shorted and gave him a bad electrical shock – ended up Derek and a few others taking him to Bolton Royal Infirmary.
We topped the bill at the Moss Bank Park Festival in Bolton in about 1973. It was Bolton’s first real outdoor festival. Around 5000 attended.
Blackfoot Sue – at Salford Technical college. Great band. Sacked a roadie for talking to us too much!
Mungo Jerry – strange gig – another that sacked their roadie – we ended up taking him home, feeding him and getting him on a train the next day!
Trapeze – One of our fave bands. We saw them a few times and loved the first album – before we only played originals – we always opened with “Black Cloud”. However we never played with them sadly.
I know there are more – but Derek has the memory – mine is not the best – so sorry if I have missed anyone.
Any favorite tales of any crazy gigs / onstage moments?
I really do need Derek here. There were many crazy nights, and some not so savory things that went on backstage. At one club, where the guy in charge was not very nice, and withheld our money, our then lead singer Tony Fearn, decided to relieve himself in the bingo machine just before he was about to use it!
Another crazy night was in Newcastle, where we doubled. We played a club 7-10, then went on to a nightclub in the centre of Newcastle between 12am and 2am. When we had finished setting up, they pulled down some mesh netting. We had no idea why, until we started playing. At the first chord a shower of Newcastle Brown Ale bottles rained down on the stage. Memorable night in that we didn’t die!
Another time when we were getting really popular and filling colleges by ourselves, I decided to alter my drum solo.
I always played a solo during the final song “Maiden Flight”, after rattling round on the kit for a few minutes, I used to turn round and play two glockenspiels and wood blocks. I decided it would be great if Dylan the roadie would load up the top of the wood blocks with beer bottles and a hammer. After playing the wood blocks I picked up the hammer and just smashed every bottle in sight. Needless to say – they audience and the band were sprayed in blood – great time!
Our local gig was the BIT. In 1975 we played it for the last time. A highlight of my life was our Roadie Dylan, bringing me out of the dressing room, and taking me to a window, where you could see hundreds of people queuing around the building. He said –“the gig is full – this lot are only hoping to get in” Magic!
What were you guys listening to during the early ’70s – any band’s you admired or hoped to be in the same sorta category as [musically]?
I loved Cream, Ginger was a bit of a hero of mine, Gentle Giant, The Nice, and of course The Beatles! Very into progressive rock I have the first Yes album bought in 1969 and loved them since, also ELP, Genesis King Crimson.. In fact – the BIM track “Cracked Path” title came from a King Crimson track “Confusion” the line went “Confusion will be my epitaph as I walk a cracked and broken path” (Pete Sinfield lyrics)
Beak loved John Mayall, Eric Clapton, esp. the Layla Album and really any true bluesmen.
Derek was into US Rock – Mountain, New Riders, Grateful Dead, Spirit.
We all really got into a new band called Wishbone Ash. They used two guitars in harmony. We all loved the sound – especially Beak who wanted to introduce a second guitarist to play harmonies with. The track “Crawl Crawl Nighttime” from Maiden Flight was where he was headed. Derek and I both thought two guitars was a bit old hat – oh dear – how wrong could we be!! The new IM have bloody THREE!
You had the one brush with Tony Iommi, regarding [hopefully] managing the band. Did you ever hear from him again or anyone else who might’ve taken on the band?
Sadly no. It was Tony and a guy called Norman Hood who were coming to watch us, but no, we didn’t hear from them again. We had one guy who tried to manage us, but kept booking pop music venues – he didn’t understand Rock music at all. He didn’t last!
Was Iron Maiden a full time gig? How often did you guys play? and did you have regular venues and/or travel much around the country [or UK]?
It was a full time gig for a while. Derek always refused to give up his job as a telephone engineer. When Derek left and was replaced by Noel Pemberton Billing it did become full time.
Just before Derek left, he had an idea we should have a “spin off” band, playing only 1950’s rock and roll. We were called Teenagers In Love, (Piccy attached) and actually began to be more popular than Iron Maiden. So we made it pay by working two bands at the same time. We took on a pianist called Alan Wickam, and a brilliant lead singer called Paul Neon.
We did have quite a lot of regular venues – mainly the college circuit in the UK – not much in Wales, and we always seemed to be playing in the lake district in England and southern Scotland. We often played down south – but never London itself. I remember meeting three young lads in the South, who heard we may be breaking up – by this time Beak was not well, and we were so busy with Teenagers – IM was taking a back seat. They asked if they could use the name Iron Maiden. We were OK with that. I often wonder who those three lads were?
Again I would love to speak to Steve over a pint about that
What were the circumstances of the band’s one [and only?] studio session to lay down the 4 songs? Was there any other studio attempts [even before the band changed the name from Birth?]
Sadly nothing of Birth exists on tape. But I do have a recording of us when we were called “Ways N’ Means” from about 1967. We were all still learning to play. Fun to listen to now.
With Iron Maiden, we were looking to get a recording contract – but having no manager we tried to do it ourselves. Our Agent at the time was William Leyland – a well known agent in the North of England, and he had a new studio in the town of Farnworth near to Bolton. So we asked to use that and went in for two days, and recorded the 4 tracks. The idea was one of us was going to make copies of the tapes and send them to record companies. I don’t even know if anyone sent them off? If it did happen, I think Derek would have done that, but as history shows – nothing came of it.
We also (after Derek left) went to the same studio and recorded two tracks with Teenagers In Love.
Quite nice recordings of 20 Flight Rock (Eddie Cochran) and the song “Teenager In Love” but we changed it to “Teenagers In Love” to fit the band.
The songs you did record – why did you pick those 4, particularly if “Maiden Flight” was not included? [or was it not written at the time?]
I recall I wrote “Maiden Flight” after the session so missed out. The four tracks were our favorites at the time.
What inspired the band’s sci-fi lycal ideas, like time travel? [any particular tv shows, books…?]
We all seemed to love Si-Fi. Our stage show had an 8mm projector showing old B/W horror and Si-Fi movies. I think we were all inspired by 2001 A Space Odyssey, The Day the Earth Stood Still and even Star Trek. I was mainly the lyricist, and so it was my love of Arthur C Clarke and his contemporaries that started the SiFi theme. A story by Clifford D Simak was the inspiration for ‘Maiden Flight”.
As for the live tracks and the CD of Covers — can you tell me about how you came about to get those so many years later? can you tell me a bit about the fan who would save the shows, and how you went about ‘recovering’ the recordings for release?
That’s a big question Kevin! From very early on being called Iron Maiden, David Southworth – known to us all as SAG, was our No.1 fan. He followed us everywhere. What we didn’t know, he filmed us on his super 8 camera and also recorded every gig he came to on his Alba Cassette recorder. By some miracle, this little recorder (which I now have in my Studio) had a “Limiter” on it, so although we were incredibly loud as a band, this little cassette captured about 8 whole gigs. Roadie Paul Hampson brought a reel to reel tape deck to an early gig where we did mostly covers, and we used a lot of those tracks for Boulton Flies Again.
“Aint you Commin Home Babe” (Bloodwyn Pig) and “Fresh Garbage” (Spirit) were favorite tracks, and I thought lost. But when I decided to try to create Maiden Flight – I invited Sag and Paul Hampson to my place to stay a few days and listen to the tapes. Sag rolled up with a VERY old tape which had on those two tracks. It was recorded at a gig we did with UFO at the Drill Hall in Bolton, and the place was large and rang like a bell.
When it came to Sag talking me into creating a “Covers” album, his request was “Cherry Red”, “Fresh Garbage” and “Aint you Commin Home Babe”
I thought it impossible with the state of the sound. A large echoing venue, Sag at the back of the hall with the tape recorder hanging round his neck.. and dancing! But a mastering studio SRT in St.Ives took the task on, and managed to reduce the ringing on the empty sounding tape, and I then eq’d it to try and bring some sound back.
I admit Boulton Flies Again is really only for the fans, but I still sell an amazing amount of them. Only yesterday I had an order from Birmingham, Alabama for all four of my albums!! Gobsmacked to say the least. “Thunderbuck Ram” from BFA is the highest earning track from streaming?
So Sag and Paul were the catalyst to allow an actual album rather than a 4 track EP.
I carefully transferred the cassettes and the one reel to reel tape onto a computer programme called Magix which allowed me to remove squeeks and blips, then transferred the magix files onto Logic pro7.
In some cases – It was like a little miracle, The vocals were always way in the background, so I was able to double track my vocals, add a bit of reverb and it worked! On Life span we only had two recording – two weeks apart and in two different gigs. The first – Beak had drank a few beers and played the riff wrong – the one two weeks later, I managed to cut the correct guitar riff and paste it on to the first take – different venue, different sound, but it worked. I was falling in love with computer recording.
I mixed all the tracks myself to save costs and then had the albums mastered at SRT Studio – the same one that rescued the two badly recorded tracks.
I would have loved to re-record all the material and the tracks we never actually played live (we had a song called “Running Free” – how weird is that?) but time and cost was prohibitive and would not have made much for the two charities.
I think the album paid for itself in the first couple of months and has since (because of Downloads and streaming) generated income for the charities for over 15 years.
Of the original material – what were crowd favorites in the band’s live set, and what were a few of your own to play [or that you felt had the most promise]?
The crowd always loved “Cracked Path” and “Crawl Crawl Nighttime”. My favorite tracks are “Life Span” – especially my daughters’ backing vocals – which they came up with. I wanted humming – they thought differently, and they were right. “A Place Of My Own” I loved too because it really just rocked along. Beaks guitar playing was wonderful – we were a three piece band – and the way Beak filled everything in – we didn’t need any one else.
Can you tell me a bit about Ian Boulton Smith as far as a guitar player [recall who he was a fan of?], a bandmate, and friend?
Beak became a friend first. We were total opposites he was 6’6”, I was 5’6” for a start. He looked great on stage with his long blond hair; he always looked like a rock star. He also was an amazing guitarist and a lovely person to write with.
His tastes were different too. He loved the Blues and in particular John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. I was into the Beatles, but he really opened my eyes to rock and the blues. I totally changed my tastes after I met Beak and Derek – we were all influencing each other. Derek was really into American rock.
As a guitar player, Beak, at that time was second to none. His playing, especially his fills, were amazing. For a three piece we could fill any venue with a great rock sound, and it was Beak who was the basis of it all. He never left a space – it was always filled with either rock solid chord work or sensitive fills. As a writer, he came up with amazing chord sequences, riffs to die for and rocking solos.
As a friend you could wish for no more. Fair to a fault, he would always forgive my exuberant ways and frolics – he was a very gentle soul who thought I was rather an unkempt wild thing (he was probably right) but I learned a lot from him – tolerance, gentleness and humour.
What did you do in the years after Iron Maiden disbanding? Was there any other regular playing bands? any invitations or auditions to join any other established bands?
Sadly – things sort of went to ratshit when Ian died. Sue my wife was just recovering from an horrendous attack by a madman, who got a life sentence for his attack. When my mother died the same year – I wanted to get out of Bolton – so did Sue.
We received an invitation from a ’50s rock and roll band called Sun Session – an Elvis band obviously. The band was fronted by Paul Neon who was with me in Teenagers In Love.
They were playing the London RnR circuit, and needed a drummer. So – we left Bolton and moved to Cambridgeshire, where we still live.
I sort of became a “50s Rock and Roll” drummer and was recruited by various bands in the ’80s – nothing of note, but, for one band – “Red Hot” we had to audition a guitarist.
It was very difficult to find the right guy for ’50s music, and we were just about to give up when we got a call from the advert in the Melody Maker. A guy known only as “Len” wanted to audition. I said we had just about given up, but if he wanted to call round to my studio the next night we would give him a listen.
“Len” showed up and was remarkable. We took him on and he was with us about 4 years before we discovered he was Lenny Davidson from the Dave Clarke 5. We had no idea!
We worked together for many years and Len and his wife Linda live literally around the corner. We both began teaching music at the Huntingdon College. I taught Drums and Keyboard – Len taught electric and classical Guitar
Len features as guitarist on my album “Totally Swept Away”
Can you touch on the idea and process of putting together the first CD in 2005? As well as your connection to Rod Smallwood and Steve Harris Iron Maiden? [did you get to meet up or hear from Steve?]
As I mentioned earlier – I haven’t met Steve. I met Adrian and tour manager David, but never Steve.
Putting the CD together was Sue’s idea. In 2005 she came in the studio and said – “do you know it will be 30 years next year that Beak died. Why not do a CD of your Iron Maiden and let Beak’s family have a copy, and our kids will be able to hear what you were like”
I have a great friend – Rob Harris who is also a guitarist (Jamiroquai). He sold me the Apple Computer and programme I needed to make the album. He also spent over 3 days teaching me how to use it. Rob mentioned that, if I was going to put out a CD, I must get the new IMs OK to do it. I was very reluctant, because I thought they would just tell me to “sod off” – which would be very hurtful to Beak and his memory. Rob and I have a mutual friend – Don Airey who played on an Iron Maiden LP (7th son I think). Don advised me to contact Rod Smallwood. So I sent an e-mail to Sanctuary – and immediately got an email back from their legal Dept.
They were very nice, I was surprised and pleased. They said Rod was happy, and not only could I do the album, but when it was finished, he would advertise it on the IM website. This was great news.
I received an e-mail back from their lawyer, who gave me details and said we would like you to change the name to “1970 to 1976 The Bolton Iron Maiden” – on three lines so it would still read Iron Maiden, but would avoid confusion for their fans. I was more than happy – after all it was their songs and talent that got them where they are – not our name!
From that grew an album, and we also managed on the 30th anniversary of his death, to do a re-union gig in Bolton in memory of Beak and to launch Maiden Flight and to raise funds for our Cancer charities. Dan Collins was playing guitar for me that night.
I called the night “the Bimmie” (The Bolton Iron Maiden Major Imbibing Event). We have since had a few “mini Bimmies” at the Olde Man and Sythe pub in Bolton.
Where did the story for Puppet Master come from [inspiration, ideas…]? And can you tell me a bit about how it went from a story to a full blown album idea?
When I first moved to Cambridgeshire, I wrote a song called “Life Is A Circus”. This would be about 1979. I then had an idea I would like to write a story of a boy who lived in a circus and was about to become a performer. This idea has floated round my head for YEARS. I then worked with Rob Harris. He would come and play guitar for me on various tracks and musicals I composed. Eventually – the circus idea became about the manager we never found as Iron Maiden, and would we have sold our souls to get to the top? The song “Maiden Flight” should have been carried on – I always wanted to write more about the Time Traveller and his faithful mute friend (a dog) – from that I formulated another SiFi song (Time Traveller – which is based on the Maiden Flight riff) and a SiFi album!
Can you tell me a bit about the players or it and why former BIM bandmembers didn’t appear?
I really wanted Derek and Noel to play. Derek lives 200 miles to the north and is not in the best of health, has no idea how to use a computer or record parts – so although I wanted him on the album – we had no resources to be able to record him. Noel lives 200 miles to the south, and is not good on staying in touch. Again I wanted Noel to play guitar (he switched from bass), another problem is Derek does not get on with Noel (a problem from many years ago) , so really using the originals was not going to happen. I have two good friends who were willing to come to me once a week and work on the songs I’d written – Martin Low (Guitar) and Garry Cutress (bass). Both are nice players and fitted in with me well.
As much as I could (time and opportunity willing) I would get Rob Harris on the recordings. Many of the songs featured Rob, when he used to use my studio, so I tried to continue that as much as possible. If you have heard Rob on Jamiroquai recordings and the work he has done with Don, you will understand why I wanted him! Rob is the backbone of the whole album.
I used to teach Don Airey’s son drumkit. He always said – if you need anything – I’ll do it for you. So when I needed a red hot moog solo – I rolled up to his place one Thursday morning in between Deep Purple gigs, and he took 20 minutes to do it for me (“Slick Dandy”). Don is one of those lovely guys who everyone likes the minute you meet him.
I had to use Rachael and Victoria on backing – cause they are just really Good!!!
Two other friends – Brian Sage from my days with a ’50s Rock and Roll band played sax for me, and Nick Hill – a local jazz trumpet player who also works with Don on his jazz gigs played trumpet for me.
What is your connection to Don Airey and how you got him involved?
I met Don through Nick Hill the trumpet player. Once you meet Don, you don’t forget him. Nor does he forget you! As I said – through Nick – I started to teach Don’s youngest son drums, and he said he owed me a favor!
I’ve done a couple of local gigs with Don, he is lovely – but scary – because he is such an immaculate player – if you make a mistake – one look and you fry on the spot!
Were the characters in Puppet Master inspired by any real people you know? Is any of it autobiographical or inspired by your own circumstances?
Yes indeed – I based some of the characters on real people. Wally Lemland the Agent working for Matthew L Fox – is based on Agent William Leyland, Matthew L Fox is simply the fox from Pinnoccio! The Sad Old Clown is my Granddad – John Feeney – stage name Tom E Sloan. The Ukrainian trapeze artist is Giant Jannkho is an anagram for Jonathan King – who let me down on my first songwriting contract with Chapple Music. The song “Rock and Roll Star” and “Gone Are The Days” are autobiographical.
As an album, it really needs to be listened to in full, as opposed to individual tracks. But, what are some of your favorites pieces / tracks from it?
I love “Slick Dandy”, “Help Me Forgive Christina” and “Rock and Roll Star”.
You recorded Puppet Master at your own studio over a number of years!? And how did you manage to wind up having it mixed & mastered at Abbey Road?
Being a rock drummer for many years, my hearing is on the way out. I worked on an album with my friend Paul Neon, just before he passed away from cancer in 2017/8. I sent the album to be mastered, and my mastering engineer said – “I could have been quicker, bit the mix was not very good!” – I mixed it! Oops So I thought I ought to see if I could find a mixing engineer who would not cost the earth.
I googled Mixing engineers – and alphabetically – Abbey Road came up first. I laughingly said to Sue – Im going to call them – just to see what they say. I started by saying “Do you work with nobodies?”
The lady laughed and said “We are a business – of course we do” She said I would have to send a sample of my material in – and the engineers would decide if they wanted to do it. Fortunately Toby Hulbert said he would love to mix it.
So I asked the cost – she said its £600 a day. I jumped for joy. I had saved over £800 so I could afford it and said yes! I send in my tracks and a few days later Toby called to discuss it with me. Then I had the real shock – they mixed only ONE track a day – and I had 18 tracks. So what I thought was only £600 was 600 x 18 = quite a few shillings to say the least.
Toby was very kind and in the end squeezed a lot more than one track a day for me, so it didn’t quite break the bank, but just the fact of being a Abbey Road – as a performer / client was absolutely magic. They also allow guests – so most of my family accompanied me for the days I worked there. The mix was immaculate. And the Mastering Engineer loved doing it too!
You [Paul] also did a solo album in 2009. Can you touch on this, as well as any other recording projects you may have been involved in or in the works?
You mean Totally Swept Away. This came about because my Dad told me the story of the Loss of The Birkenhead – a steamship which sank with the loss of 600 soldiers lives. I had to write a song about it and in true O’Neill fashion started to write more and more about the sea. It ended up as 15 songs about various aspects of the sea. Because of the topic of the songs there is a lot of folk influence in the songs. I have often played in Folk Rock bands and appreciate the music.
I am a big fan of Gentle Giant, and their first producer Tony Visconti. My dream was to have him produce this album for me. So on a whim, I looked him up on the internet and found an e-mail address. I contacted him and told him the story, and sent some MP3s, and to my shock – he replied and was interested in doing it.
However, his manager then contacted me and in a voice that sounded like someone from the mafia, he said, “you come through me, and no one else – I’ll decide who does what” Scarred me to death – didn’t hear from Mr Visconti after that. I hope I didn’t get him into trouble. But…..What a producer!
I have also written four musicals, two on my own –
Days In Glass Cages – a children’s story about insects and living in harmony with one another, and The Art Of Living Apart – a musical about the re-introduction of the death penalty in England – and one man being framed for murder will be the first recipient.
And I’ve co-written another two musicals – “Toys” and “Cloud Cuckoos”, with local writer Jenny Brench
I’ve been Musical Director for various things in the local Priory Centre in town.
I’m currently writing and recording songs about my own childhood and family members. I doubt this will be more than something shared with my family.
What are the other former members of BIM up to? Did anyone else go on to future bands or recordings? And have you all kept in touch?
We are all in touch. Noel lives in the deep south of the UK, buys and sells guitars and plays locally in bands. His neighbor is Jerry Dorsey from Mungo Jerry.
Derek still lives in Bolton with his son Tom, not played since the Bimmie in 2006, but still has the gear. We are talking about getting the Bolton Iron Maiden out on the road to promote the new album.
Dylan the roadie lives in Bolton with his daughter and has written a few items for our website “Memories” page
Terry (Gearie) has moved back from Dubai where he was director of the Energy Council and is happily retired with his wife Hazel in Kent. I am godfather to his daughter Bethany
Roadie Paul Hampson still grows his own weed – oh no sorry, he runs a garden nursery and lives in Preston. He lives with his wife and two grown up daughters.
It was just over a week ago that the shocking news that British singer John Lawton had passed away on June 29 came out. July 11th would’ve been John’s 75th birthday. Though best known for his time with Lucifer’s Friend and Uriah Heep, John had a very lengthy career full of great recordings — not only the 2 major bands he was known for, but plenty of one-off projects, solo albums, singles, guest appearances. One thing that is undeniable is that regardless of who John was performing with – it was his vocals that stood out. A buddy of mine used to say – “he could sing the phone book and make it sound great!”.
I’ve picked 15 tracks from throughout John’s career to celebrate his life and recordings. And this is just a scratch on how much great stuff the man was a part of. *Please leave a few favorite tracks in the comments.
Ride The Sky – Lucifer’s Friend
The best known song from Lucifer’s Friend, and probably the most well known vocal from John. He and the band sounding like they could fit in alongside the biggest names in early hard-rock / metal in 1970. Covered by a few bands, most notably Avantasia. One of a few LF songs that John would later include in his live repertoire for years. Lucifer’s Friend [II] would also re-record the song in 1994 for Sumo Grip.
Burning Ships – Lucifer’s Friend
From Lucifer’s Friend’s 2nd album – Where The Groupies Killed The Blues. An acoustic ballad that builds up. One of John’s trademark numbers, and many o’ Lucifer’s Friend fans’ favorite song. More recently Jason Kane & The Jive did an excellent cover of this. *I’ve included the 2015 live version here, as I’d previously included the original studio take in my post on John’s passing. I think the band still did an incredible job on this 43+ years later!
Mama Loo – The Les Humphries Singers
Many people may not realize that John’s main gig prior to Uriah Heep was recording and touring with The Les Humphries Singers, a pop band featuring a number of great singers, who played many top hits [covers], as well as songs written by Les Humphries. This was written by Les, and was the group’s biggest hit, with John singing lead.
High Flying Lady (Goodbye) – Lucifer’s Friend
From Lucifer’s Friend’s most ambitious album, and the one John cited as his favorite – Banquet. It was one album he’d have liked to have performed live in full. This is the a great upbeat rocker, full of brass, great production, and amazing vocal from John.
Little Chalk Blue – Roger Glover’s Butterfly Ball
John sang on this track written and recorded for Roger Glover’s 1974 theatrical album The Butterfly Ball And Grasshopper’s Feast. A sweet orchestrated ballad. It was issued as a single and part of an EP, but not on the 1974 LP. John would perform it at the 1975 live staging of The Butterfly Ball, where he also sang the song “Love Is All”.
Wiseman – Uriah Heep
Written by Ken Hensley, “Wiseman” was a minor hit in Europe. It’s a classic Heep ballad, and John once cited it as the first song he sang with the band. He would keep it in his live repertoire years later, and re-recorded it with Steve Dunning for their 2002 album Steppin’ It Up. The song also earned Heep a spot on UK TV show Top Of The Pops.
Free N Easy – Uriah Heep
John wrote a few songs on the last few Heep albums, and a couple of them were the heaviest things the band did during this period. “Free N Easy” [co-credited to Mick Box] was a huge fan favorite, from Innocent Victim [altho’ “Free Me” was the massive hit in some countries during this era]. The band would bring this one back in more recent years, and it would feature on the band’s Live In Europe ’79 album, as well as John’s reunion album with Ken Hensley – The Return.
Hey Driver – Lucifer’s Friend
After leaving Heep, following the recording of a 4th [as yet released] album, John recorded a solo album [co-written with Peter Hesslein, and using Lucifer’s Friend as the backing band], followed by an awesome reunion album with LF – Mean Machine. A return to straight ahead hard-rock, influenced by the New Of British Heavy Metal at the time. One of my top 3 LF albums with so many great hard rockers to chose from.
Heart Of The Night – Zar
In the early ’80s John sang on an album by German hard-rock band Rebel, featuring Tommy Clauss on guitar. Another opportunity arose for John to step in and recording with Clauss again at the end of the decade with the band Zar. Released in 1990, Live Your Live Forever was a fairly commercial sounding heavy metal album, full of killer tunes. John proving he could still rock as hard as he did on the first Lucifer’s Friend album.
Don’t Stop Believing – Gunhill
Gunhill was the band John formed in the mid ’90s. They were primarily a working band, doing plenty of covers, some originals, and a few from John’s past. They did release a CD in 1997 titled Nightheat, which included this as the opener. Written by John, I really liked this one, and a the band’s few other originals here.
Tonight – John Lawton [solo] / Uriah Heep
John was extremely busy in the early 2000s, with Gunhill coming to an end, and a few other projects, a new band, and this solo album from 2000 titled Still Payin’ My Dues To The Blues. A great set of lighter blues and blues based tracks. This is an outstanding ballad that John originally wrote and recorded as part of the 4th [unreleased] album with Uriah Heep. John also re-did this one with Steve Dunning in 2002 Should be interesting to hear Heep’s version.
Written On The Wall – John Lawton Band
The short lived John Lawton Band followed Gunhill, and the band toured and would release this line album, as well as a live DVD . Sting In The Tale was a solid set of blues based rockers. This is the stand-out track for me, a nice heavy rock song.
Steal The Night – OTR
OTR [On The Rocks] was a short-lived project John did latter day Focus guitarist Jan Dumee, as well as a few Brazllian musicians in 2008. A very different album that showed again how much John could sound great in any type of music.
Fairytale – Intelligent Music Project [Diana Express]
Intelligent Music Project is a recording band that is the brains of Bulgarian producer / songwriter Milen Vrabevski . John sang on the first 2 albums in this act. The first one billed as John Lawton & Diana Express and titled Power Of Mind.was a concept album, Diana Express being the Bulgarian band playing here as well. Again, a very different album, more adult contemporary, hard-rock, orchestrations… The ballad “Fairytale” was the first song released from the album, and the standout track John did with these albums.
Passengers – Lucifer’s Friend
From the last Lucifer’s Friend album Black Moon in 2019. A fantastic album, showing John and the band could still come up with good, memorable songs. The band had re-grouped in 2015 for a compilation album [with 4 new tracks], a live album, and a studio album Too Late To Hate in 2016.
As pointed out in a previous article, long before Steve Harris formed Iron Maiden in England, there were other bands who had used the name, most notably a band from Bolton, in northern England, who existed from 1970 to ’76. The trio featured Ian Boulton-Smith [guitar], Derek George Austin [bass, backing vocals] and Paul T.J. O’Neill [drums, lead vocals, keyboards…]. Noel Pemberton Billing would later replace Boulton-Smith, who would return later as well. Although the band would go through a few other changes those were the 4 members who would be captured on cassette live and on tape in the band’s lone studio recording of 4 tracks. Ian Bouton-Smith [aka Beak] passed away June 23rd, 1976 of testicular cancer, and thus this Iron Maiden came to an end. Ironically, Steve Harris’ band was just getting off the ground, and I believe I read that it was Beak who informed Harris that another band was already using the name! Fast forward 30 years, and Paul T.J. O’Neill wanted to honor Beak’s passing and decides to compile a CD of the band’s recording – 4 taken from their only studio venture and a number of live tracks salvaged from a fans’ cassettes at the time. Proceeds of this 12 track CD are also donated to Macmillan Cancer Relief and Cancer Research UK in the guitarist’s name.
Maiden Flight was released in 2005 under the name The Bolton Iron Maiden, as Paul O’Neill had reached out to the world famous band’s manager Rod Smallwood, who not only suggested adding the Bolton to the name [for clarification and legalities], but also threw his support behind the release by having it mentioned on the band’s website and in their news. The Iron Maiden Bolton were a good band back in the day, and judging from the 4 proper studio tracks alone, it’s a shame they never got signed and had some of these songs put out in the day. Citing the likes of Zeppelin, Cream, and Free as influences back then, it is pretty spot on as far where to put this band — a solid blues-based hard rock band. The first of the studio 4 is “Cracked Path”, a song about addiction, and it is a definite Zeppelin early type of rocker, would’ve made a neat single! “Crawl Crawl Night-time” is a longer rocker, lyrically penned about O’Neill’s insomnia. You may recognize the riff, as it is pretty much “Hocus Pocus” by Focus; the Dutch band had recorded their hit classic not too long before this, and the similarity caused the band a bit of stress [an interesting story at their website]. But aside from the Hocus Pocus riff, this is really a stand out track here, love the lead guitar and fills. “Cell Debris” is a tale of man who’s wife has passed and he stands at her grave, reflects on his past and awaits his own end. A pretty interesting and chilling tune, musically reminds me of Cream in places. “Red Sky” is the last of the studio tracks, and it’s a rocker about a time traveler. An interesting theme [time travel], as many of the band’s songs would be based around sci-fi topics, and the time traveler would idea would be the basis for the 2020 album Puppet Master : the Rise and Rise of Slick Dandy. The rest of the originals are well worth hearing, though the sound is not great, and Paul O’Neill would overdub the vocals.
There is plenty of good original songs here performed live and one can only imagine that the likes of “A New Place Of My Own” and “The Naughtiest Girl Is Alive And Well” – which features a lengthy guitar solo [and a nod to Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust”] that this Iron Maiden could’ve delivered a pretty decent album in the early ’70s, perhaps one of those odd rarities we’d all be paying stupid prices for!? Last of the live tracks is the band’s signature song “Maiden Flight”, another based on time travel, and this containing a good bit of jamming, clocking in at over 12 minutes. *Gotta say also, great detail put in to the CD packaging, filled with stories and notes about the songs and times, and a few pics!
A 2nd CD of live tracks was issued in 2007 titled Boulton Flies Again : The Covers [the spelling of Boulton after the band’s guitarist Ian Boulton Smith]. It consists of 11 songs featured in the band’s set, and were [again] saved from a fan’s cassette recordings at the time. The sound is not great, but again – very good for an audience recording of the time, and you can get a good listen and feel for how the band was then. It’s an interesting blast back to the early 70s pub scene, with a band that was still trying to make it, playing plenty of others’ material. Funny thing is Bolton Iron Maiden didn’t play a predictable batch of hits, but some pretty cool gems from other bands who weren’t too far in to their careers, notably they played “Black Cloud” by Trapeze, Spirit’s “Fresh Garbage”, Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen”, Free’s “All Right Now”, The Groundhogs’ “Cherry Red”, and the early Mott The Hoople classic “Thunderbuck Ram”, in which Beak does a fine job covering brilliant Mick Ralph’s guitar work . Heck, I am glad to hear this CD being a fan of ’70s rock [and born too late to be there then], so I am finding a few gems I want to hear more of.
In 2018 Paul O’Neill decided to resurrect the Bolton Iron Maiden name again with a concept album about – time travel, as it was the basis for the band’s “Maiden Flight”. The album and story included within the CD titled Puppet Master: The Rise And Rise Of Slick Dandy tell the tale of a 50 year old musician named Norman Normal who’s wishes are answered when the Time Traveler takes him back 30 years, introducing him to an agent, who then introduces him to the ‘Sven Gali to the stars’ who has Norman change his name, becomes a huge star, but in time falls in love, loses the girl, and wants another chance to go back and not lose her. It is quite a unique and detailed stories, with a number of characters and great ending. But it is the story one will enjoy along with the music and the booklet [detailing the characters and tales]. As such, this album is quite varied in musical styles, and theatrical. There are 17 tracks, though some of them are short pieces relevant to telling the story. So you get some excellent rockin’ tracks [closer to the old Iron Maiden sound], and you get more theatrical pieces / ballads, as well as a bit of spoken word where required. Among favorite cuts are the upbeat rocker “Menamong Men”, “Rock n Roll Star” and “Gone Are The Days”. There’s also the excellent “Slick Dandy” [the main character], it’s a pop rock song that builds up heavier – it reminds me of The Fixx’s “One Thing Leads To Another”, and it features Don Airey [this guy is everywhere] on Moog synthesizer, There’s a few fine ballads in “Time Traveler” [the opener], “Old Sad Clown”, and “Who Pulls The Strings” – which has a very David Gilmour feel to it musically, and in Paul’s vocal.
The Rise And Rise Of Slick Dandy is a very detailed album, and once you sit down to ‘get’ the story, it is quite unique, and the music suits it so well. As mentioned there are some excellent individual pieces, but it’s more worth hearing the whole thing. O’Neill unfortunately could use a few former bandmates due to travel issues, but all are mentioned in some way in the detailed liner notes. He does use guitarists Rob Harris and Martin Low, as well as bass players Garry Cutress and Brian Ralph, his daughters on backing vox, and guests Nick Hill [trumpet] and Brian Sage [sax]. All mixed at the legendary Abbey Road Studios!
*Aside from this latest project Paul O’Neill also released a solo album in 2009 titled Totally Swept Away, which features 10 tracks – which are all stories based on Sea adventures / legends, with titles like “Pirates”, “The Mayflower – Hearts Of Oak”, “The Loss Of The Birkenhead”, and “The Captain Is Mad”. Musically more adult contemporary, progressive, pop, well produced… if I dare say this reminds me a bit of Phil Lanzon’s [Uriah Heep] solo albums and even Jethro Tull on occasion. Love the cover art!
*And just to be clear this Iron Maiden [from Bolton] existed before Steve Harris’ band, but there was no connection, though it would be interesting to hear the world famous metal band covering “Cracked Path” or “Maiden Flight”. Nor is this band to be confused with the Iron Maiden from Basildon, UK, who existed from the mid ’60s til mid 1970 and released a single that year. They too released a CD of recordings several years later titled Maiden Voyage.
*all images borrowed from CD cover and the band’s website. + CD promo poster courtesy of PO!
If you weren’t familiar with this British band from the ’70s, you are missing out, and perhaps one of the greatest live albums of the era, released with the shows – 7 full shows to be precise. 7 shows from the band’s spring 1977 UK tour! While Live In The Air Age was initially released as an 10 track LP/EP and would become the band’s biggest seller, this box set includes all the shows recorded to draw from for that album – in their full glory. Lead by founder Bill Nelson, who handled all guitar and vocals, as well as being the band’s songwriter. Live In The Air Age set list of 15 tracks each night was pulled from the band’s 4 studio albums to that point. Be Bop Deluxe mixed various styles, with the glue being Nelson’s often blues influenced soaring guitar leads with bits of jazz influence, and his stunning and lengthy solos. He had such a unique tone. Musically the band were ahead of their time, likely influencing many hard rock and new wave acts of the late ’70s & ’80s with their progressive style of rock, smooth vocals, keyboards, and harmonies, delivered so well played each night. There are no ‘off’ sounding nights. And though the set-list rarely changed [save for the odd night without the encore], each night is a fantastic listen for the improvisations, Bill Nelson’s speech intros, and simply the playing of the band’s best material such as their biggest hit “Ships In The Nights”, and favorites such as “Sister Seagull” [classic riff], “Life In The Air Age” [the opener each night], and the rockin’ “Mill Street Junction”. The latter half of the shows would feature lengthier improvised jams and solos on such tracks as the instrumental “Shine”, as well as “Terminal Street” [killer heavy guitar solo here] and encore “Blazing Apostles” [which usually runs for 20 minutes] . Nelson’s amazing guitar sound was complimented not only by the rhythm section of Charles Tumahai [bass, backing vocals] and Simon Chase [drums] , but also by the varied spacey keyboards of Andy Clark [see “Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape”]. The box also comes with a colored booklet full of photos, images, and an essay from Bill Nelson, detailing the era, his recollections of that UK tour, adding a few stories, as well as his eventual reasons for putting the band to rest after 1978’s Drastic Plastic. There’s also further notes from journalist Mark Powell. *There is also a condensed 3 disc version featuring the restored original album, as well as the full show from one of the evenings at Hammersmith Odeon.
LIVE IN THE AIR AGE Box details:
• A DELUXE 16 DISC LIMITED EDITION BOXED SET OF THE CLASSIC 1977 LIVE ALBUM BY BE BOP DELUXE • THE ORIGINAL ALBUM IS NEWLY REMASTERED FROM THE ORIGINAL MASTER TAPES RESTORING THE CORRECT ALBUM RUNNING ORDER • WITH AN ADDITIONAL 14 CDs FEATURING EVERY CONCERT RECORDED ON THE BE BOP DELUXE UK TOUR OF FEBRUARY & MARCH 1977 ALL NEWLY REMIXED FROM THE ORIGINAL MULTI-TRACK TAPES BY STEPHEN W. TAYLER • INCLUDES A BBC RADIO ONE JOHN PEEL SESSION FROM JANUARY 1977 • ALSO INCLUDES A DVD (NTSC / REGION FREE) OF THE STAR RIDER IN CONCERT TV FILM FIRST SCREENED IN 1977, RELEASED HERE FOR THE FIRST TIME • INCLUDES A LAVISHLY ILLUSTRATED BOOK WITH MANY PREVIOUSLY UNSEEN PHOTOGRAPHS & NEW ESSAY BY BILL NELSON • ALSO INCLUDES POSTCARDS AND A REPLICA POSTER
Esoteric Recordings is proud to announce a new re-mastered super-deluxe expanded boxed set limited edition release (comprising 15 CDs and a DVD) of LIVE! IN THE AIR AGE by BE BOP DELUXE. This legendary live album was released in July 1977 and would prove to be the band’s most successful album, peaking at number 10 in the UK charts. The album was issued at a time of growing commercial success for the band and followed on the heels of two highly acclaimed studio albums in thirteen months, Sunburst Finish and Modern Music, both of which reached the top twenty of the UK album charts. Live! In the Air Age would be the band’s only live record and was recorded on a series of dates in the UK in February and March 1977 on the Rolling Stones mobile unit with John Leckie, who had engineered co-produced the band’s previous two albums, supervising the location recordings.
The band’s UK tour began in late January and was an audio-visual extravaganza that featured the use of projection screens and excerpts from the 1927 German silent film Metropolis, director Fritz Lang’s striking science fiction masterpiece. Continuing into February, the first concert to be recorded was at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester on the 12th of that month. The following two nights saw concerts at the Grand Theatre in Leeds which were both captured on tape and saw Bill Nelson perform to an enthusiastic home audience. However, at this juncture fate would intervene to cause a postponement to the remainder of the tour. Travelling to a concert in Bristol on 15th February 1977, Bill Nelson and John Leckie were involved in a car accident which resulted in them being hospitalized at Huddersfield Infirmary. Thankfully, all involved recovered quickly from their injuries, but as a result of the accident, the remaining concerts were postponed until the end of March. The tour began again with two concerts at Hammersmith Odeon in London on March 25th and 26th 1977 which revealed the band to be on top form, feeding off the tremendous warmth of the audience. Further shows in Bristol and Bournemouth on the 27th and 28th March respectively also contained many fine moments. Bill Nelson and John Leckie selected the best performances for mixing at Abbey Road and Advision studios in London and LIVE! IN THE AIR AGE was released in July 1977.
Research of all of the Be Bop Deluxe master tapes revealed that multi track tapes of all the shows recorded on the UK tour of 1977 had survived. After digitizing and listening through to all of the Rolling Stones mobile unit 24-track tapes it was decided to include each concert in its entirety in this expanded boxed set. The concerts were mixed over a period of several months by Stephen W. Tayler and are presented here for the very first time. They reveal the improvisational side of Be Bop Deluxe, particularly on pieces such as Shine and Blazing Apostles which made each concert unique.
This set features the original album, newly remastered from the original master tapes, and restores the correct running order of the original LP release and has three bonus tracks drawn from a BBC Radio One JOHN PEEL SHOW session from January 1977. This box also adds an NTSC / Region Free DVD of STAR RIDER IN CONCERT – BE BOP DELUXE, which was first screened on television in 1977 and appears exclusively in this boxed set for the first time. Finally, this limited-edition boxed set includes an illustrated 68-page book with many previously unseen photographs and an essay of recollections by Bill Nelson. Additionally, the set includes postcards and a replica poster. This special deluxe limited-edition boxed set of LIVE! IN THE AIR AGE is a fitting tribute to a fine live band and the creative vision of Bill Nelson.
Anyone familiar with British singer / performer will want to check out this new CD box. Brown who had had a #1 hit in the UK and Canada [#2 in US] with the song “Fire” in 1968. His stage show included his ‘fire hat’, and he wore black make-up around his eyes, an idea that would later be taken on by Alice Cooper, and later Kiss. When his ‘Crazy World Of Arthur Brown’ [which would feature organ player & co-writer Vincent Crane [pre Atomic Rooster] and drummer Carl Palmer] split up, he started the ’70s with a new band – Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come, which featured the great guitar work of Andy Dalby for the band’s 3 albums. 1971’s Galactic Zoo Dossier featured such tracks as “Space Plucks”, the heavy instrumental “Gypsy Escape”, “Metal Monster”, and “Sunrise”. Much of this is not your standard rock or prog writings or arrangements of the ’70s, there’s lots of variety, lots of unique theatrical deliveries, humor, but really amazing performances from the band, including organ, and Brown’s vocal delivery ranging from near spoken, and soft pieces to his powerful and emotional vocals on the likes of “Sunrise” .
This stuff is not to be entered in to lightly – you can’t just play it once and categorize it, as there is so much going on musically and lyrically. The follow up album was 1972’s self titled Kingdom Come, which appears simpler with a colorful and word-free cover, and fewer and short song titles. The album is highlighted by “Love Is A Spirit”, and the comical “Traffic Light Song” [that guitar hook reminding me of James Gang’s “Funk #49”], and closing with the 8 and a half minute spacey ballad “The Hymn”.
The 3rd and final album was 1973’s Journey. This would be even more experimental and a bit lighter overall than it’s predecessors. Journey would be the first album in history to use a drum machine [performed by Brown]. Plenty of experimental and diverse keyboards [less organ], with 3 tracks clocking in over 8 minutes, there’s definitely less vocals throughout this album, but best pics for me are the last 2 cuts “Spirit Of Joy” [the single, and which would be covered by Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden], and “Come Alive”.
Not sure how these albums sold in the day, but it’s a nice collection of a major period in Arthur Brown’s amazing career. Brown has one of Britain’s most powerful and unique voices, and would’ve been an interesting fit for a number of heavy or heavy blues based bands [see Atomic Rooster, Fleetwood Mac]. He would go on to record many more albums, and appear on other’s albums [see Alan Parson’s Project, Klaus Shulze, Hawkwind, Bruce Dickinson]. In more recent years he is still performing [pre CoVid], and has appeared on stage with Alice Cooper, the Hamburg Blues Band, most recently toured North America as part of the “Royal Affair” package [w/ Yes, Asia, etc..].
Esoteric Recordings is pleased to announce the release of a new boxed set featuring all of the albums recorded by the legendary ARTHUR BROWN & KINGDOM COME issued between October 1971 and April 1973. The band came together in 1970 following ARTHUR BROWN’s failed attempt to form a new band upon the disillusion of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown in 1969. Based in rural Dorset, Arthur had undertaken rudimentary recordings with the bands The Puddletown Express and Rustic Hinge before forming a new, more satisfactory band KINGDOM COME. The initial group came together with a line-up of ARTHUR BROWN (vocals), BOB ELLWOOD (guitars), DAVE AMBROSE (bass), ROB TAIT (drums) and PETE BAILEY (percussion) to record a lengthy jam session in the studio. This tape was impressive enough to lead to a contract with Polydor Records and the album GALACTIC ZOO DOSSIER was the first album by the band. Issued in October 1971, the album featured Arthur Brown joined by ANDY DALBY (lead guitar / vocals), MICHAEL “GOODGE” HARRIS (keyboards), DESMOND FISHER (bass), JULIAN BROWN (VCS3 Synthesizer) and MARTIN STEER (drums). The band’s debut album was a conceptual work loosely based upon the subject of humanity living in a zoo and subject to cosmic forces. As a group, Kingdom Come took the mantle from where the Crazy World of Arthur Brown had left off, presenting a highly theatrical show which utilized the VCS 3 synthesizer and presented a form of experimental rock music which was far ahead of its time. This led to them becoming a popular act on the festival circuit (their memorable appearance at the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre was captured in the documentary film of the same name). For the band’s next album, 1972’s KINGDOM COME, Desmond Fisher departed and was replaced by PHIL SHUTT. The album was another conceptual work and built upon the impact of their debut. Soon after the album’s release Martin Steer and Goodge Harris also departed the band. American musician VICTOR PERAINO joined the group on Mellotron, VCS3 and Theramin and Brown opted to utilize the Bentley Rhythm Ace drum machine instead of a drummer, bringing a new electronic direction to Kingdom Come’s highly inventive Space Rock. This incarnation of the band recorded their final and finest album in the Autumn of 1972, the highly influential JOURNEY. Issued in April 1973 the album was a superb conceptual work and featured such legendary material as “TIME CAPTIVES”, “SPIRIT OF JOY” and “COME ALIVE”. Despite the excellence of the album, KINGDOM COME disbanded soon after the album’s release leaving an impressive legacy. This new remastered boxed set features the albums “GALACTIC ZOO DOSSIER”, “KINGDOM COME” and “JOURNEY”, along with the archive disc “JAM – THE FIRST SESSIONS 1970” and “AT THE BBC 1971-1972” a twelve track CD featuring sessions recorded for the BBC between March 1971 and September 1972, nine tracks of which are previously unreleased. The set also adds thirteen bonus tracks (two previously unreleased on CD) taken from studio out-takes and a rare single. Also included is an illustrated booklet with new essay featuring an exclusive interview with Arthur Brown and a replica poster. “ETERNAL MESSENGER” is a fine tribute to Arthur Brown, a unique and visionary musician.
• A DELUXE 5 CD BOXED SET FEATURING ALL OF THE ALBUMS BY ARTHUR BROWN & KINGDOM COME • FEATURING THE ALBUMS “GALACTIC ZOO DOSSIER”, “KINGDOM COME”, “JOURNEY” & THE ARCHIVE RECORDINGS “JAM – THE FIRST SESSIONS 1970” & “AT THE BBC 1971-1972” (FEATURING NINE PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED TRACKS) • ALL NEWLY REMASTERED • WITH THIRTEEN BONUS TRACKS, TWO NEVER ISSUED ON CD, DRAWN FROM STUDIO OUT-TAKES & RARE SINGLES • INCLUDES AN ILLUSTRATED BOOKLET WITH PHOTOGRAPHS, NEW ESSAY WITH EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ARTHUR BROWN AND A POSTER.
February of 2018 marks the return of Uriah Heep to Canada, and the start of the band’s biggest North American tour in decades! The list includes 36 shows – starting in Ottawa, Ontario, and eventually on to the US from the east coast to west and back up to Vancouver [Bernie Shaw’s home province British Columbia], and ending in Calgary, Alberta on May 1.
For the latest dates, check out > http://www.uriah-heep.com .
You can also go to the site and let other fans know which shows you’ll be attending [I’ll be at London and Toronto, Ontario]
The band has just completed recording a new album – “Living The Dream”, which won’t be out for several months, and something Heep fans are eagerly awaiting and pre-ordering – https://www.pledgemusic.com/uriahheep
The recording for the new album went fairly quick!? How prepared were you guys [with new songs written] before recording? We were very prepared as we had a 2 week pre-production before hand, so most of the ideas were in place, and it was just a matter of a nip and tuck here and there once Jay Ruston our Producer was involved in the studio. We finished the recording process in under 3 weeks which was just amazing.
I can’t imagine there’s too much you can tell at this point [too early?] – but are there any details you can give regarding Living The Dream? It is a typical Heep album with all of our usual trademarks. The harmonies, organ sound, and the wah wah guitar etc.
Is everything written by yourself and Phil Lanzon? Everything basically, but one song Bernie had a hand in the lyrics and one that Davey wrote with Jeff Scott Soto.
How was working with Jay Ruston? He’s done a lot of cool albums! Who recommended him? Jay was fantastic to work with and he brought out the best in each of us in a very understated way. When we started hearing back the first track that we recorded we knew we had the right man. He became part of the Heep family vey quickly. We were fans of his from his work with THE WINERY DOGS, STONE SOUR, BLACK STAR RIDERS, PAUL GILBERT AND EUROPE to name but a few..
Living The Dream won’t be out until the fall [that’s a long wait for us ;-)] . Will any of the new songs work their way in to the live show before then? It is still in the process of being mixed. We do not usually put songs in our set until the release of the album. If we did then they would be all over the media sites and there would be no impact on the release.
You are coming to North America in a few weeks, and in particular [for me] Canada! This will be the first time Heep plays in Ontario since 1993. How did getting the band here finally come about? We now have management Ace Trump & Adam Parsons along with an agent Keith Naisbitt of APA Agency USA who believe in the band, and they made it happen. Previously we had been in a bit of no-mans land and we were not being driven to capacity in that market, which is a real shame.
Bernie must be excited? That’s a big understatement!
Will the set list be changed much from recent shows? will it still feature a number of Outsider tracks and any old surprises? We will perform a musical journey throughout our career starting with the first album and finishing with the last one ‘Outsider.’
It must get tough when an album – such as Into The Wild and Outsider have had their tour in the live show and you have to decide what stays and goes in the setlist!? It usually sorts itself out in the end . There is only so much we can play each night, so once we get to rehearsals and the energy and ideas flow, it usually comes together reasonably quickly.
In recent years you guys have struck up a friendship with Alice Cooper [who’s on tour here at the same time]. Yes, we have become good friends with Alice. In fact Bernie and I did a tour in Germany with Alice called the ‘Rock Meets Classic,’ tour. This was with a 40 piece orchestra from Prague in the Czech Republic. Bernie and I used to get up each night and play ’Schools Out,’ with Alice on his encore. Alice also told us that he used our song ‘Lady in Black,’ as his warm up song, so there was mutual admiration there. He is a great guy.
Can you tell me a bit about the connection to Alice and his support with One Minute? Alice Kindly played ‘One Minute,’ from our ‘Outsider,’ CD on his radio show.
Phil released an outstanding album recently. Will any tidbits of it feature in the shows? and will he be bringing some copies to sell over here? That is Phil’s project so no tidbits and he is planning to sell them at shows.
The band had a strong following in such cities as Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal… do you have any great memories or a few stories to share from any places in Canada? I remember way back when playing in Toronto with Rory Gallagher and being totally blown away by him. He was the first guitarist I saw play pinched harmonics, and he did a whole solo on them. He was something special and a super great player and singer. He is sadly missed.
Lastly, the band has their own label and has been re-issuing a few things from the past few decades [Raging Through The Silence, Totally Driven…] – will there be something new in 2018 from the vaults? I am sure there will be as things are constantly surfacing at a rate of knots.