THE ART OF
THE STORY OF A
CULT MOD-SOUL BAND
Album Review of:
‘ART GALLERY’ by
(1966, Decca LK 4830,
CD 2,000, Repertoire REP5134)
‘I’m so happy to be here today,
and for all of you that are searching
for the answer to your problem in life,
if you’re ready right now,
we are going to solve it…
and this is all you’ve got to do…’
(The Artwoods “Keep Lookin’”)
Yes, to get the obvious out of the way first, Art Wood was the older brother of Ronnie – who’s made a forty-year career out of being the New Boy in the Rolling Stones. In fact, while young Ronnie was playing in a sixties beat-group called the Birds, scoring a single near-hit with “Leavin’ Here” (UK no.45), and grabbing press-inches by litigating against the American Byrds for allegedly sticky-fingering their name, brother Art was leading the Artwoods, a highly-rated Mod-Soul R&B group who climbed to no.35 on the chart with their single “I Take What I Want”, made waves with their EP ‘Jazz In Jeans’, and recorded a now very-collectible LP called ‘Art Gallery’. The group ran from, roughly, 1963 to 1967 and, like John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, achieved a second layer of celebrity due to the subsequent success of its sides-men. Mighty drummer Keef Hartley recorded a series of classic albums through the seventies. And tyro-keyboardist Jon Lord reached even greater heights as a central component of Deep Purple.
But first, Arthur Wood was born 7 July 1937, in West Drayton, Middlesex, the oldest of three brothers born to Lizzie and tug-boat skipper Arthur. Like Garfunkel he found the full given name he’d inherited from his ‘water gipsy’ father, old-fashioned and somewhat uncool, but by abbreviating it to ‘Art’ it suddenly subsumed imagery of a totally different and more elevated kind. As Art Wood, at age fourteen in 1950, he went through the art-school ‘Beatnik’-era thing at Ealing, developing a useful knack at graphic design, typography and fine art, before being called-up, doing his compulsory National Service stint as Private 23267647 in the army at Devizes, Wiltshire in 1955. He graduated into skiffle until – with demob, he hightailed for London to form his first R&B group the Art Woods Combo, with a repertoire based around Fats Domino and the Chess catalogue, Chuck Berry and Chicago Blues, playing interval gigs at the Uxbridge ‘Regal’ cinema between films. As 1962 picked up its pace he stood in as one of a pool of vocalists contributing to the pioneering protean Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated (with Cyril Davies and Charlie Watts) at the legendary Marquee Club, which in itself invested his name a certain authenticity.
With the die cast, in a 1963 line-up remix he ‘amalgamated’ with guitarist Derek Griffiths and Jon Lord (on Lowrey organ) from Red Bludd’s Bluesicians. Born in Leicester on 9th June 1941, Lord had been educated at Leicester’s Wyggeston Grammer School For Boys, and took piano lessons between the ages of nine and seventeen. He graduated to the Central School of Speech And Drama at London’s Swiss Cottage (of Al Stewart’s “Swiss Cottage Maneuvers” fame!), where his keyboard skills saw him involved with the Bill Ashton Combo, a six-piece modern jazz unit. ‘I left drama college but never got any work as an actor because I didn’t want to leave London’ he recalled, ‘for two years I did virtually nothing, until I joined Red Bludd’s Bluesicians, an experimental blues group’ alongside Derek. Next, Art recruited bass-player Malcolm Pool from the Roadrunners, replacing an injured Don ‘Red Bludd’ Wilson, and finally added Keef (replacing Reg Dunnage) via a small-ad in ‘Melody Maker’. Keef was a survivor of early Beatlemania days, starting his career by replacing Ringo Starr in Merseybeat stalwarts Rory Storm & The Hurricanes, then occupying the drum-chair for Freddie Starr & The Midnighters. Art had booked the Marquee for auditions, but Keef the only drummer to turn up, while coincidentally – in a different part of the same club, the Yardbirds were auditioning a nervous Jeff Beck as a replacement for Eric Clapton! Young Ronnie watched from the sidelines as Art offered the ‘very spotty’ guitarist words of encouragement. Some years later Ronnie would become part of the Jeff Beck Group.
Collectively the reshuffled line-up become the New Art Woods Combo. To start out with, as Art was by now married to Doreen, for convenience Keef crashed over with Art’s mother-in-law – occupying Doreen’s former room, while Jon Lord moved into the Wood family’s boxroom in West Drayton – at £4-a-week all-in. Art’s Mum ‘was lovely. She treated me like a second son. But I was so hard-up I had to think twice about going into London on the tube. I couldn’t always afford the fare.’ Yet from such beginnings the group would evolve into one of the most respected and underrated Blues groups of its time.
Jon Lord made his professional debut as a musician with the Art Woods Combo at the ‘Railway Arms’, Fratton near Portsmouth. From there, the formidable five-piece went on to play all the most influential venues, from ‘Eel Pie Island’ to ‘Klooks Kleek’ in Hampstead, from the ‘Ad-Lib’ and the ‘Cromwellian’ to a residency at the ‘100 Club’, with their fluent takes on American covers. Art indulgently took younger brother Ronnie around gigs at the Harrow ‘Railway Tavern’ – where manager Kit Lambert had first seen the Who, and the legendary Richmond ‘Crawdaddy’ Club. Rhythm-&-Blues formed a vital ‘underground’ movement. The fanaticism that had created the sustained environment for – and launched, the embryonic Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Manfred Mann and John Mayall was then fermenting more powerfully, with greater national interest than ever before. From clubs like the famous ‘Marquee’ all the way to the back rooms of regional Pubs, Howlin’ Wolf chords jostle comfortably with Lightnin’ Slim riffs, while devotees of Charlie Parker or Zoot Sims found the atmosphere loose enough to infuse their own styles into the creative flux.
There’s a significant secret history of Mod music orbiting the resonant sound of the Hammond organ, influenced by American inroads blazed by the likes of Jimmy Smith. Georgie Fame made the biggest commercial breakthrough, but equally active within the same Jazzy-Blues scene was the wonderful Zoot Money, plus Graham Bond… and, of course, the organ was the essential Artwoods ingredient provided by Jon Lord. ‘In about 1961 I heard Jimmy Smith playing “Walk On The Wild Side” and from then on I was enraptured by the organ. I couldn’t buy one, but I got really interested in Hammonds.’ Jon told me ‘I started playing the organ through listening to Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff, y’know, the JAZZ organists. And Georgie Fame, Graham Bond – they were organists I listened to way back in the mists of time. So that’s where I came from initially.’ He elaborated about Graham Bond, ‘he was my mentor. I learned from him. The Graham Bond Organisation used to play at the same Blues Clubs that the Artwoods used to play at. We were usually the interval band, so I used to – figuratively speaking, sit at his feet. And I used to pester him with questions about how to get the Hammond to sound like this, like that, like the other. And he taught me an enormous amount. Superb musician. Very odd man, strange man, but a brilliant musician.’
With the Beat Boom on the cusp of evolving into Mod-Soul, groups had to work harder, play better, and as such, the Artwoods were strongly tipped by the music press as natural successors to credible front-runners the Yardbirds or the Animals. Decca records were the first to start sniffing around. Resulting in a studio try-out with A&R-man Mike Vernon, a Blues-enthusiast and fine Blues-guitarist in his own right. It was Vernon, at this late stage, who suggested abbreviating the name from the Art Woods Combo to the more hip Artwoods. The group had already demo’d Muddy Waters “Hoochie Coochie Man”, but ditched this intended debut in a last-minute switch, leaving the song to Long John Baldry and Manfred Mann (although a live Artwoods bootleg version would emerge some years later). Instead, with Vernon producing, they delved back as far as Leadbelly for “Sweet Mary” for their first 45-rpm. A raggedy eight-bar tune from Huddie Ledbetter’s Folkways ‘Last Sessions’, his “Sweet Mary Blues” is alternately known as ‘Guvernor Pat Neff’, although it’s likely the Artwoods based their version on a recent ‘B’-side and later EP-track by the Cyril Davies All-Stars, ironically taken from his final Pye sessions. But, with an overhauled arrangement based around a simple repeated figure throughout, treated with an ascending dynamic that goes from soft to cacophony and back again, they make a fairly decent fist of it. It opens with Keef’s brushed cymbals and Derek’s guitar-strokes, then Art’s talking-style lead-in about how his girl has ‘big bow legs, but she’s alright with me’, then higher, intensifying into a climax extolling how ‘she aint no bumble-bee, but she can sure make sweet hon-ee’ with exaggerated vocals rising as it builds and builds with muted background organ feeding in, into a jaggedy Stonesy guitar-break and a crescendo of powerfully repeated ‘got to find Mary’ before descending abruptly back to quietness.
For the flip they chose “If I Ever Get My Hands On You” a more Pop-centric composition from Ivy League songwriters Ken Lewis and John Carter, their Ska-alike treatment giving the slight song depth and substance. Fronted by Jon’s burbling heaving organ, and broken by a snagging ‘Roadrunner’ guitar-riff, and a humorous ‘I’ll take you anywhere, and I’ll even pay the fare’ lyric, Art delivers the slightly lustful innuendo-title lightly, clear through to its final growled repetition. By the time of the single’s November 1964 release the Stones were already premiering their “Little Red Rooster” – their last 45rpm Blues cover, the Pretty Things and the Animals were also high-charting, and oddly the anodyne Four Pennies were in the Top 40 with their take on Leadbelly’s much-covered “Black Girl”.
On the dark-blue Decca label, details picked out in silver lettering, the Artwood’s debut release was boosted by a live slot on ‘Ready Steady Go’ alongside Donovan and the Kinks, and – although it didn’t chart, it provoked much positive response. OK, it wasn’t a record that was going to start, or stop wars. But it proved the group had legs, and they were going places (and yes, it was still ‘group’ rather than band). Two more singles across the next year established a pattern of covering American R&B for the ‘A’-sides, while serving up their own efforts for the flip. With Jon Lord’s first recorded composition “Big City”, paired with “Oh My Love” in February. An impassioned gospel-flavoured Soul-ballad – ‘when I kiss your eyes, you know that my heart dies’ before Art invites ‘alright Jon’ taking it into the organ break. While the competent urban flip bemoans a city ‘as mean as a snake’, a place ‘where I spend all my bread’ that’s ‘just a pain in the head’. The familiar Blues lyric-theme builds to a plea to ‘please let me make my way back home’. It was followed in August by “Goodbye Sisters” c/w “She Knows What To Do”, which builds like the Yardbirds “For Your Love”, backed up by a mean organ-propelled groove in which ‘she really struts that stuff’.
But the Artwoods achieved their highest visibility by going to the Stax label for Sam & Dave’s “I Take What I Want” (written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter), about ‘a bad go-getter’ who’s going to make you ‘my goyle’. Its single-minded bragging certainty, driven by Malcolm’s bobbing bass, is contagiously irresistible. Even the flip, a slow sinuous “I’m Looking For A Saxophonist Doubling French Horn Wearing Size 37 Boots”, is a Booker T organ with novelty voice interruptions, that shows inventive potential. The confusion over the single’s exact chart history – argued out in various website dialogues, is due to the nature of the music press at the time. There were four papers simultaneously publishing lists of best-selling singles. And they seldom agreed. The ‘Record Mirror’ Top Fifty was compiled by industry-source ‘Record Retailer’, and it provides the data collected into the authoritative ‘Guinness Book Of Hit Singles’. ‘New Musical Express’ used a different chart, which has also been subsequently republished in book-form. The Artwoods never appeared on either of these charts, hence they don’t figure in the spin-off reference books. But there was also a ‘Disc & Music Echo’ Top Thirty. And there was ‘Melody Maker’ chart. And it was here – and only here, with Manfred Mann’s “Pretty Flamingo” at no.1, that “I Take What I Want” entered the ‘Melody Maker’ Top Fifty at no.43 (14th May 1966). The following week it climbs to no.40, to make its third and final appearance, at no.35, on 28th May. Presumably the different papers based their lists on returns from different shops, which explains the anomalies. But it could also be due to chart-fixing perpetrated by over-zealous management. A phenomenon not exactly unknown at the time. As a foot-note, to further complicate an already confused situation, ‘Ready Steady Go’ also presented its own chart, based on a cleverly-contrived aggregated from the four pre-existing charts, which therefore saw the Artwoods chart-run as 51-46-46!
Despite such bickering minutia “I Take What I Want” was widely-played on various Pirate Radio stations, where I heard it, as well as at all the best Mod clubs where its ‘bad man’ self-confidence made it a serious contender. It made the perfect swaggering ego-boost anthem to pych you up to cross the dancefloor of the In-club to that girl you’ve been watching, with all the cock-sure strutting arrogance that, beneath the contrived façade, few of us actually possessed. Meanwhile the group’s punishing touring schedule was taking them hither and yon shoving an intimidatingly powerful live set, with a harsh and provocative dynamic equivalent to dropping a smooth grenade into the club, ensuring them a firm club fan-base. If a breakthrough was ever going to happen, surely it must be – if not now, at least – imminent…?
In press photos the line-up look sharply cool in the Mod Carnaby Street way, long but disciplined hair, ties and neat stylish suits, whether posing with a flash cherry-red open-top MG sports car, or strung out across the stage. It’s true that Art’s voice lacks the distinctive command of an Eric Burdon or Van Morrison. In club terms it may lack Georgie Fame’s fluidity or Zoot Money’s burbling personality. But live, or on record, there were plenty of examples of lesser vocalist unable to match his presence or convincing projection. Contributing sleeve-notes to the expanded CD edition, ‘Melody Maker’ journalist Chris Welch, who knew them well, points out that Art had a ‘sturdy unpretentious vocal style’ combined with ‘just the right unflappable personality to hold a band of restless musos together.’ And, steeped in carefully studied but fluid authenticity, those musos could play. Derek’s guitar-work was never less than tastefully flashy, allied to Malcolm Pond’s active bass. Keef’s forcefully-animated and highly-personalised drum-style was jazz-influenced, yet delivered with faultlessly economical timing. With Jon Lord finally up-switching to Hammond, although focused on R&B and Soul, his virtuoso organ-flourishes were already nudging towards the beginnings of more ambitious prog-Rock projects. Astutely quick to capitalise on a good thing Mike Vernon had the musicians sneaking off for lucrative session-work for his Decca and then Blue Horizon R&B-roster, playing live and record dates for Freddy Mack and Mae Mercer while also backing-up visiting American stars Bo Diddley, Memphis Slim and Little Walter, both financing their otherwise impecunious life-style while soaking up experience.
But 1966 was to be their most high-profile year. Despite another failed single in August with “I Feel Good” c/w “Molly Anderson’s Cookery Book”, with Derek adding skronking fuzz-box to his Gibson ES335 TD, and harmonies punching around Art’s vocal, into a neat instrumental break with strong bass, before it there came the ‘Jazz In Jeans’ EP, and the twelve tracks making up the ‘Art Gallery’ LP. Supposedly recorded originally for France-only release, which explains the EP’s odd song-selection, their reading of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” nevertheless works. A cool easy-swing Ramsey Lewis Trio – or Peddlers, jazzy interpretation with guitar-strum standing in for the famous descending bass-run. It’s impossible to out-weird Lee Hazlewood, so they don’t try, but doing it straight-faced invests the song with unexpected power. The movie-theme “A Taste Of Honey” had already been interpreted by the Beatles, the Hollies and Herb Alpert, but they manage to give it a new spin, at best picked out by jazzy guitar and sprightly organ, at worst, veering towards movie-intermission muzak. Another instrumental film-song – “Our Man Flint” from James Coburn’s 1966 James Bond-spoof, hits a mid-point up-switch into dazzling small-group interplay before returning to the main theme. The EP closes with Jon Lord’s smooth “Routine”, about how ‘pool or a ball-game’ provides a break from ‘the same old scene’ of work-pressures. It completes a neat little package sleeved in an attractive Pop art lettering logo-cover.
The ‘Art Gallery’ cover-design also prominently features a Mod RAF-style roundel overlaying a rehearsal shot of the group, assuring it cult collectability. And, produced by Mike Vernon at Southern Music Studios in Denmark Street, it’s a strong selection. Opener Allen Toussaint’s “Can You Hear Me” comes via Lee Dorsey, with the group adding call-and-response chant to Art’s exhortations, and a strong unison guitar and bass riff behind Jon’s organ solo. It builds through repetition, urging ‘shake off your shoes, jump about, shout about it, you got nothing to lose’, pledging an album manifesto that ‘we’re gonna have some fun’. As Chris Welch recalls, the second track, Solomon Burke’s “Down In The Valley” delivers on that pledge, flaunting ‘the kind of strutting beat that used to send blonde Dolly-Birds boogalooing in their mini-skirts around the West-end ‘In’ Clubs’. With its ‘hey hey hey, you gotta go down deep’, it’s one of Art’s strongest performances. James Ray’s “If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Myself” had already been a novelty hit for Freddie And The Dreamers, but the Artwoods reclaim its dignity (and Ronnie would eventually revive it further for his 1974 solo LP ‘I’ve Got My Own Album To Do’). “Walk On The Wild Side” – Oliver Nelson’s arrangement of Elmer Bernstein’s 1962 movie title-theme for hard-bopper Jimmy Smith’s 1962 Verve album, the record that had first turned Jon on to the organ, is a virtuoso showcase that had formed a standout of Artwoods live-set since the group’s beginning. “Be My Lady” is a second Booker T-style funky instrumental. While the jerky rhythms and Keef’s tom-tom accents highlight Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s “I Keep Forgettin’”, a US hit for Chuck Jackson, later revived by Ringo Starr and David Bowie. Steve Cropper is an impossible guitarist to equal, but on Cropper’s “Things Get Better” Derek’s stinging guitar turns in a nifty break that neatly sidesteps comparison. It even has a Poppy radio-friendly chorus. So yes, they’re all class tracks. But all covers.
Every sixties name-group started out with covers-based sets, from the Beatles and Rolling Stones through the Kinks and the Who. But by 1966 they’d all evolved to a predominant reliance on original material. Despite the odd ‘B’-side, the Artwoods found themselves stranded on the wrong side of the culture-shift. Album track “Keep Lookin’” starts off with the parody-sermon wiffle delivered in perfect pronunciation by Jon over funereal organ and nervous coughs from the congregation, before exploding into driving rhythms, drum-breaks and ‘badaboomlam-samalam’ high-energy. But beneath its styling, it’s still another Solomon Burke Rock ‘n’ Soul cover…
Despite missing out with home vinyl-consumers the Artwoods developed a strong European following, leading to February 1967 tours in Poland (with Billy J Kramer), and French high-profile gigs at Paris’ ‘La Locomotive’. For the Polish tour Malcolm Pool was replaced by Ron Wright – who was with Lulu’s back-up group the Luvvers on “Shout”. Malcolm had been set upon by a gang of youths in a pub in Bishop Stortford where the group had been appearing, he was hospitalised, given three stitches in his hand and police-escorted out of town. Nevertheless, the tour left the Artwoods “I Feel Good” on the Polish Chart. In July they toured Denmark where “I Take What I Want” had been a January hit. Despite which there was a feeling that, just maybe, they’d passed their creative peak. ‘Melody Maker’ suggested that ‘one of the big drawbacks in the drive for success by the Artwoods has been the fact that they are all nice guys and good musicians. If only they were nasty and talentless, they’d be hitting the chart, folks!’ Chris Welch – writing the CD sleeve-notes, pretty-much confirms this verdict, ‘the Artwoods were not only great players, they were also among the friendliest, most cheerful and intelligent bunch of looners on the scene’. As a young ‘Melody Maker’ scribe he recalls playing a hectic darts contest with the group at the ‘100 Club’. The Artwoods won.
As seismic shifts changed the music-scene, their reliance on covers, apart from a few ‘B’-sides, saw them losing further ground. Jon Lord was their strongest writer, but he still saw himself primarily as their keyboard-player. Standing 6’1/2”, Jon confided to journalist Roy Hollingworth ‘when I was with the Artwoods I heard an album called ‘Bernstein Plays Brubeck Plays Bernstein’ (1961). That turned me on, I thought it was brilliant and original to put a Jazz group with an orchestra. I wanted to do it with a group, but really couldn’t with the Artwoods – maybe we could, but I wasn’t musically mature enough to write it’ (‘New Musical Express’). He tells ‘Melody Maker’ a similar tale, ‘I had discovered classics but I couldn’t fit any into the Artwoods music’ (11 September 1971). Such long-nurtured aspirations would eventually flourish with his ‘Concerto For Group And Orchestra’ (1969) and the nuanced grandeur of ‘Gemini Suite’ (1970). But this full writing potential would only become apparent in later bands.
Now, with the Decca contract lapsed, a one-off single for Parlophone followed, but even a sing-along ‘la-la-la-la’ chorus failed to lift “What Shall I Do?”. While for the ‘B’-side, “The Deep End”, the Artwoods veer the closest they were ever going to get to psych-progressive, with Art’s voice mixed back into freak-beat harmonies, with guitar distortion and an experimental wind-down close. When it fell short of rectifying the sales situation they were ill-advisedly pressured, by label-boss Jack Baverstock, to jump the ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ fad. The Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway movie had provoked a kind of 1930’s fashion-fad that took Georgie Fame to no.1 with his “Ballad Of Bonnie & Clyde”, complete with machine-gun effects. Maybe the blag would work for the Artwoods? When a defiant Keef Hartley refused to go along with the strategy, he was acrimoniously replaced by Colin Martin, and – launched by a lavish bash at the ‘Speakeasy Club’, the group briefly became St Valentine’s Day Massacre. Dragged up in gangster-chic, they toured their single revival of Bing Crosby’s hit “Brother Can You Spare A Dime?” for Fontana. Despite organ-work and strong guitar not dissimilar to Joe Cocker’s Grease Band, Art’s proletarian lament against the injustices of Depression-era austerity did not perform the required chart magic. ‘B’-side “Al’s Party” takes the theme further, with ragtime piano – the ‘Al’ is Al Capone, his party is the St Valentine’s Day Massacre, ‘Bugs’ Moran is invited, he’s the fall-guy, the track closes with startles of machine-gun fire. ‘Al Capone’s guns don’t argue’, indeed!
Looking back at the period, Jon Lord recalls ‘actually I felt bloody ridiculous. It wasn’t too bad abroad but back in England we had to wear these suits and I felt stupid playing R&B dressed like that. We all did.’ There was some promo, including an appearance playing in the Carnaby Street ‘Lord John’ boutique. But laid low, the group petered out soon after.
When I spoke to Jon Lord he explained how the roots of his work with Deep Purple ran deep. About how, long before the formulation of the ‘Deep Purple In Rock’-style put their album into the Top Fifty for a full year, with a Metal-brand derived out of the classic Cream/Led Zeppelin mould, the scattered members of the future Purple were working within the Blues field, doing cabaret, straight Pop and session-work. Often, until the firming of Purple’s most successful line-up around mid-1969, individual members came close to catching commercial fire – as Jon did with the Artwoods. For Jon and the other future-Purple’s, a series of groups produced a series of records, some of them excellent, sometimes regular Pop-Rock – occasionally even undeniable rubbish. After the demise of the Artwoods Jon admits ‘I had nothing to go to and for eight or nine months I did not work apart from a few sessions to pay the bills.’ He was even touring-MD for the Flowerpot Men – a group of ‘professional flower-children’ assembled by John Carter and Ken Lewis – the Ivy League duo who’d penned Artwood’s first ‘B’-side “If I Ever Get My Hands On You”. Ironically, by cynically exploiting the gullibility of the hippie-fad for purely commercial motives they did what Artwoods had never been able to do, they hit no.4 on the chart with “Let’s Go To San Francisco Part 1” c/w “Part 2” (Deram DM142). Bassist Nick Simper was also with the Flowerpot Men, and through him, around the end of 1967, Jon met Ritchie Blackmore, the core of the first Deep Purple, with former-Searchers drummer Chris Curtis acting as an unlikely catalyst. But for Jon Lord, it was his Artwood’s period that proved to be the vital apprenticeship…
After prematurely exiting the Artwoods Keef Hartley (8 April 1944 to 26 November 2011), went on to join John Mayall, before his own Big Band played a Saturday afternoon slot at ‘Woodstock’. His album ‘Halfbreed’ (1969) with jazzers Henry Lowther (trumpet) and Larry Beckett (trumpet), was well-received and respected, going on to add Ray Warleight (flute) and Barbara Thompson (sax) for ‘The Battle Of North West Six’ later the same year. As a kind of very-British counterpart to horn-driven Blood Sweat & Tears, ‘Overdog’ (1971) with songs by Miller Anderson is another highly-rated essay in loose long-limbed jazz-rock. Keef was later rejoined by Derek Griffiths in Dog Soldier for their 1975 LP. Derek had been doing serious session-work, and playing with Colin Blunstone’s back-up group doing the former-Zombie’s hits “Say You Don’t Mind” and “I Don’t Believe In Miracles”, from his Epic-label albums ‘One Year’ (1971) and ‘Ennismore’ (1972). Meanwhile, Mike Vernon was busy forming his own Blues specialist label ‘Blue Horizon’ for CBS, responsible for early Fleetwood Mac and Chicken Shack.
So were the Artwoods a failure? Viewed strictly in terms of the quantum jump to hit singles and albums, yes, it’s possible to argue it that way. In subsequent interviews Art himself seems to regard it as such. Explaining that Ronnie’s immense success in the Rolling Stones more or less compensates. But I don’t see it that way. The Artwoods left a legacy of a cool Mod image, and an archive of music on record that is redolent of the time, and still stands up favourably to comparison with other contemporary bands. That’s a considerable success. That’s more than most of us ever get to achieve in our lifetimes. And personally, I retain a strong affection for the group. When I told Jon Lord as much, he told me, the Artwoods? ‘it’s very much of its time though isn’t it? I’m proud of it, proud of it. It was four or five young musicians searching for something a little bit different, and we had a lot of fun doing it. Great.’
Caught within the ensuing fall-out Art toyed with a group called ArtBirds – with Jon Lord, John ‘Twink’ Adler (future Pink Fairies drummer), plus brother Ronnie and Kim Gardner from the now equally-defunct Birds (Art+Birds!). Then he took Ronnie and Kim over, adding some former-Small Faces (Kenny Jones, Ian McLagan) into a venture called Quiet Melon. Fontana kept their options open, offering free rein of studio-time, but they turned down a four-track group-demo, and the group failed to score a contract. Quiet Melon managed a live set at the Cambridge May Ball, then reconfigured into the Faces with Rod Stewart, and Art pretty-much quit music, concentrating on a successful second career in Graphic Art, forming his West Four Design studio business with middle brother, Ted. Married to second wife Angie, he continued to sporadically play sets with the Downliners Sect, and – as critics and cult-archivists rediscovered his 1960’s legacy, by then reissued in various CD packages, there were even reconstituted versions of the Artwoods, until his death from prostate cancer 3 November 2006, aged 69.
PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION:
ARTWOOD’S ART GALLERY
November 1964 – “Sweet Mary” c/w “If I Ever Get My Hands On You” (Carter-Lewis song) (Decca F 12015) review: ‘A very talented young outfit making a useful name for themselves around London, the Art Woods should break into big time with a well performed disc’. The Artwoods represented by ‘London City Agency’ by Johnny Jones and Barry Dunning (later agency for Mud and Man)
February 1965 – “Oh My Love” c/w “Big City” (Jon Lord song) (Decca F 12091)
August 1965 – “Goodbye Sisters” c/w “She Knows What To Do” (Decca F 12206)
April 1966 – “I Take What I Want” c/w “I’m Looking For A Saxophonist Doubling French Horn Wearing Size 37 Boots” (Decca F 12384)
August 1966 – “I Feel Good” c/w “Molly Anderson’s Cookery Book” (Decca F 12465)
April 1967 – “What Shall I Do” c/w “In The Deep End” (credited to ‘Paul Gump’ aka the group) (Parlophone R 5590) “What Shall I Do” later featured in compilation LP ‘Hits Of The Mersey Era: My Generation’ (EMI, December 1976)
1967 – “Brother Can You Spare A Dime” c/w “Al’s Party” as St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (Fontana H883)
1966 – ‘Oh My Love’ (Decca 457.076 M) with “Big City”, “Sweet Mary”, “If I Ever Get My Hands On You” + title track. French EP
1966 – ‘Jazz In Jeans’ (Decca DFE 8654) with “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” (by Lee Hazelwood), “A Taste Of Honey”, “Our Man Flint” (by Jerry Goldsmith), and “Routine” (credited to the group, but actually just Jon Lord)
1966 – ‘I Take What I Want’ (Decca DFE 8576) with “If I Ever Get My Hands On You”, “I Feel Good” and “She Knows What To Do” + title track
November 1966 – ‘Art Gallery’ (Decca LK 4830) with “Can You Hear Me”, “Down In The Valley”, “Things Get Better”, “Walk On The Wild Side” (Jimmy Smith), “I Keep Forgettin’”, “Keep Lookin’”, “On More Heartache” (with its Motown bass and cooing vocal background, this is surely a Northern Soul contender?), “Work, Work, Work” (‘you talkin’ to me Boy?’ demands Art, ‘don’t wanna hear about work, you keep that trash to yourself!’), “Be My Lady”, “If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody”, “Stop And Think It Over” (slow impassioned Blues), “Don’t Cry No More” (with a rousing Isley Brothers’ ‘Shout’ build)
1995 – ‘Art Gallery’ (Repertoire REP4533-WP, then REP5134, 2009), includes 12 original album tracks, plus “Sweet Mary”, “If I Ever Get My Hands On You”, “Goodbye Sisters”, “She Knows What To Do”, “I Take What I Want”, “I Feel Good”, “What Shall I Do”, “In The Deep End”, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’’, “A Taste Of Honey”, “Our Man Flint”, “Routine”, “Brother Can You Spare A Dime”, “Al’s Party”
2005 – ‘The Artwoods: Begin Here’ (Traces AD2067) a bootleg claiming to be ‘Live at the Ormescliff Hotel, in Llandudno October 1964’ with 11 mono tracks recorded on a Grundig reel-to-reel, including “Got My Mojo Working”, “The First Time I Met The Blues”, “Smack Dab In The Middle”. “Comin’ Home Baby”, “Hoochie Coochie Man”, “Art’s Blues”, “Green Onions”, “Smokestack Lightning”, “Chicago Calling” + live versions of both sides of their first single
November 1995 – An EP ‘Art Wood’s Quiet Melon’ (Lost Moment Records LM12051, reissued as CD LMCD051, 2006) consists of material from the rejected Fontana tapes recorded in Phillips Studio May 1969, “Engine 4444” (by Art Wood) and “Diamond Joe” (by Art Wood), plus “Diamond Joe” instrumental, with Ronnie Wood, Kim Gardner, Kenny Jones and Ian McLagan. An alternate take “Early Roller Machine 4444” also appears on CD ‘Sugarlumps’ (Acid Jazz AJCD161). Art mentions two other lost titles, “Right Around The Thumb” and “Two Steps To Mother” with Rod Stewart sharing vocals
1998 – ‘MoneyDue: Art Wood’s Quiet Melon’ (Japan-only QMECDMO 121649, reissued 2002 as Crown CRCL 4036) thirteen tracks, two original tracks “Diamond Joe” and “Engine 4444”, plus eleven new tracks featuring all three Wood brothers – Ted, Art and Ronnie, “My Resistance Is Low”, “Lady Moon”, “Knee-Deep In Nephews” (by Art Wood and Ray Majors, featuring Ron’s son Jesse James Wood), “Meet Me In The Bottom” (adapted from Willie Dixon), “Am I Blue”, “Hard Time Blues”, “Gee Baby”, “Driftin’”, “Turn In Around”, “Soup In A Basket”. Also features Don Craine, Keith Grant, Ray Majors, Sandy Dillon, Mick Avory. For the album’s 1998 launch Quiet Melon performed a one-off gig at the ‘Eel Pie Club’ in Twickenham featuring all three Wood brothers.
1983 – ‘100 Oxford Street’ (Edsel EDCD 107, then 1998 Get Back GET524) with “Sweet Mary”, “If I Ever Get My Hands On You”, “Goodbye Sisters”, “Oh My Love”, “I Take What I Want”, “Big City”, “She Knows What To Do”, “I’m Looking For A Saxophonist”, “Keep Lookin’”, “I Keep Forgettin’”, “I Feel Good”, “One More Heartache”, “Down In The Valley”, “Be My Lady”, “Stop And Think It Over”, “Don’t Cry No More”. Sleeve design by Art Woods, with four-page group-history by Derek Griffiths
2000 – ‘Artwoods: Singles A’s & B’s’ (Repertoire REP4887) with “Sweet Mary”, “If I Ever Get My Hands On You”, “Oh My Love”, “Big City”, “Goodbye Sisters”, “She Knows What To Do”, “I Take What I Want”, “I’m Looking For A Saxophonist Doubling”, “I Feel Good”, “Molly Anderson’s Cookery Book”, “What Shall I Do”, “In The Deep End”, “Brother Can You Spare A Dime”, “Al’s Party”, “These Boots Are Made For Walking”, “A Taste Of Honey”, “Our Man Flint”, and “Routine”
2006 – ‘The Artwoods’ (Spark SRLM) 11-track vinyl limited-edition, with “On More Heartache”, “Our Man Flint”, “Work Work Work”, “Be My Lady”, “Don’t Cry No More”, “Can You Hear Me”, “Walk On The Wild Side”, “Things Get Better’”, “I Keep Forgettin’”, “A Taste Of Honey” and “Routine”
See also: feature in ‘Record Collector no.153’