Saturday 30 July 2016



my grandfather marries in 1915
plants a son, goes to France
and never comes home…
Len grows up among doting women
who wipe his tears, care and cosset,
always there for his pleasure…
until after the second war
he meets my mother in 1947
to plant his own son…
no post-traumatic stress disorder
for his numbed generation
no support counseling in a
bewilderment of stunned peace,
becalmed in the unreal aftermath,
they just go for a pint at the Crown,
Yorkshire puddings with lots of gravy,
on Sunday hoe the allotment,
hear ‘Forces Favourites’ on the Light
and never talk crawling nightmare,
be Kenneth More or David Niven,
never betray the heroic narrative,
keep your silences to yourself
don’t betray your screaming dreams
with night-sweat horrors of the dead,
cry for Churchill, even though he
advocates shooting 1930s strikers,
as their darkest terrors retreat into
‘Dad’s Army’ and ‘Allo Allo’,
watching their longhaired lout
children dancing free love
drugs and revolution…

Thursday 28 July 2016



The life, death, hard times and hits of the man 
who wrote “If I Were A Carpenter”


Tim Hardin had simplicity. Songs sparsely-worded, stripped down to haiku-like equations. Slight chord progressions, out of Blues, built up in neat clusters, the juxtaposition of phrases systematically and frugally rearranged as if by mathematical principles into different combinations, different songs, until the variation-possibilities were exhausted. Songs that, like all good Blues, were admirably suited to jazz improvisation.

Not for Tim Hardin the epic methedrine-scrambled ‘Desolation Row’ odysseys of a Bob Dylan. Not for Tim Hardin the artfully literate postures of a Leonard Cohen, or the agit-prop radicalism if a Phil Ochs. Not for Tim Hardin the fey art nouveau fairy tales of a Donovan. Like Michael Zwerin puts it in the liner-notes for ‘Tim Hardin 3’ (1968), ‘each version of “Misty Roses” is like alternate takes by Charlie Parker. Fresh and different.’

But if Tim Hardin was really ‘kissed by a fast-flying muse’ as ‘Q’ journalist John Bauldie suggests, that muse finally ran out 29 December 1980. Hardin died of an overdose in his Hollywood Orange Drive apartment just three weeks after the John Lennon shooting, leaving only a slender line of immaculate songs.

Tim Hardin was a descendent of the legendary ‘guiltless outlaw’ John Wesley Hardin about whom Bob Dylan created a mythology. He was born in Eugene, Oregon 23 December 1940, and began pursuing his music muse in earnest following his discharge from the US Marines in 1961, after seeing voluntary action in Vietnam, and picking up a taste for heroin there around 1958. He played in Boston Folk Clubs, studied acting for a while in New York, even taught guitar for a semester (a term) at Harvard. Inevitably, by 1964 he’d gravitated to bohemian Greenwich Village to play the legendary ‘Night Own Café’, then the melting pot of new styles and influences. The Mamas and the Papas retrospected its significance on their hit single “Creeque Alley”, and Lovin’ Spoonful named a searing Blues instrumental after the café.

Hardin’s music, a deft and personal fusion of Blue simplicity, Jazz eloquence and Folk purity, was showcased at the 1966 Newport Folk Festival which went some way towards establishing him as a performer and a writer of note. Tapes recorded and subsequently forgotten, made during this period, surfaced much later as the ‘This Is Tim Hardin’ (1967) LP – although there are claims they were actually made as early as 1963-64. The set shows him drawing heavily on traditional material, “Hoochie Coochie Man”, “Stagger Lee” and “House Of The Rising Sun”, but there are also four of his own early songs including “You Got To Have More Than One Woman”, and the much-recorded “Danville Dame” which has him reworking standard Beat Hobo imagery – ‘I’m riding a flat car, flat on my back…’, into a contagiously shuffling rhythmic pattern already idiosyncratic and uniquely Hardinesque. Both songs were later to become a standard part of his stage act. Yet at the same time he was also stockpiling a number of incandescent and startlingly original compositions for his first official album.

He made some demonstration tapes, which Charlie Koppleman hawked around US Columbia (CBS in England). They got him as far as working in the studio with a Columbia staff producer, but nothing came of the sessions and he took his tapes, instead, to Verve. Those initial demo’s were later used, according to Hardin, ‘in direct breach of contract’ by the label – but in the meantime he worked on tracks for his debut album.

‘Tim Hardin 1’ was issued in September 1966. It was, according to Rock Encyclopaedist Lillian Roxon, two years in the making – a reference to its inclusion of two early songs, but even if taken at face value, then not a second of that time can have been wasted. Decades later the simple insistence of songs like “Don’t Make Promises”, “Reason To Believe” and “Misty Roses” retain the power to amaze. Phil Hardy and Dave Laing comment that ‘his style was maturely formed, owing more to Jazz and Blues than Folk. He used his emotionally-charged voice as a musical instrument’ (‘Encyclopedia Of Rock Vol.2’). The voice is brittle, cracking in around the lines, the instrumentation sparse – although Gary Burton’s Jazz vibraphone adds tone and texture, as do John Sebastian’s harmonica and Felix Pappalardi (later a producer for Cream and member of Mountain). The strings were overdubbed without Hardin’s consent, and – it was later made clear, at his express displeasure. But occasionally, as on “Hang Onto A Dream”, the strings are quite within context and work a lot better than one could logically expect them to.

The sleeve is an unflatteringly realistic head-shot of Hardin taken in the garden of the ‘Castle’, a square-faced, solid figure. None of the overstated poetic contrivances of a Tim Buckley or a Bob Dylan ‘Blonde On Blonde’ shot. By contrast, Hardin could be a labourer, a stonemason – or a carpenter. He appears to be of the earth, unaffected and real.

In a later interview with Michael Watts, Hardin explains that the words for his songs come first, as poems – ‘the lyrics are the rhythmic scheme. The words make the line of the melody because I sing improvisationally’ (‘Melody Maker’ March 1972). And the voice, its conviction reinforcing rather than belying his appearance, is often apologetic, vulnerable. A voice at once containing melancholia and desolation through a naturally extemporised fluidity that never once resorts to any kind of unnecessary theatricality.

Barely nine months later, Hardin delivered the second instalment, ‘Tim Hardin 2’ (1967) which consolidated all the critical expectations. Here is “If I Were A Carpenter”, “Black Sheep Boy”, “Lady Came From Baltimore” and “You Upset The Grace Of living When You Lie”. If Hardin had never again set foot in the studio his stature would be assured by just these two records. Eric Jacobson, an ex-Folkie who later did production work for Sopwith Camel and Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky”, had produced ‘1’, and went on to arrange ‘2’, while Charlie Koppleman and Don Rubin take producer credits this second time round. In the guise of Kama Sutra records Jacobson, Rubin and Koppleman also launched and financed Lovin’ Spoonful.

But in the meantime, as well as being integrated albums in their own right, Hardin’s two sets of original songs quickly became the most successful ‘demo’ discs of the period. Seldom can so few songs have been covered by so many artists. Bobby Darin was the first. Apparently he’d been offered John Sebastian’s “Do You Believe In Magic?”, but turned it down as ‘too weird’. Following its immense chart success for the Spoonful, Darin was anxious to avoid repeating such an unfortunate choice, and agreed to accept and record whatever Folk-orientated material the agency next offered him. Hence he cut “If I Were A Carpenter” before the release of Hardin’s own version, tightening and sharpening the arrangement, but leaving the song’s essence admirably intact. His reading of the song so close to the original that an anguished Tim was reported as protesting ‘he’s stolen my voice!’ The single became a monster hit on both sides of the Atlantic, peaking in the States at no.8 and no.9 in Britain during November 1966.

‘If I were carpenter, and you were a lady, would you marry me anyway, would you have my baby.’ The lyric strips human relationships back to raw basics, relinquishing status and class, to the most fundamental man-woman bond. And it’s mature adult love, to do with family and procreation, not teeny Pop-fodder. If he was a miller ‘with the mill-wheel grinding’, or a tinker ‘carrying the pots I’d made’… true traditional craft-occupations with medieval roots into the hard-grit certainties of an almost lost reality. At a time of fierce revolutionary gender politics it could be argued the song cleaves to the ‘when Adam delved and Eve span’ archetype, he the artisan-provider, she the pregnant Earth-mother, but such a reduction carries its own prima truth. Each line is the purest romantic poetry, sparsely-worded statements, pared down to haiku-like equations, Tim Hardin had the gift of simplicity.

 Darin went on to record an impressive “Lady Came From Baltimore” too, as did Scott Walker and Joan Baez. Rod Stewart did a well-intentioned but clumsy “Reason To Believe”, his first-ever chart hit – no.19 in September 1971, Johnny Mathis also did a bland MOR version of the same song. “Hang Onto A Dream” was recorded by Cliff Richard and Keith Emerson’s Nice. “Don’t Make Promises” came via Lulu, a 1967 A-side from Timebox, and by the Sandpipers. “It’ll Never Happen Again” by Cilla Black… while further covers of “If I Were a Carpenter” appeared by the Four Tops – Top Ten in March 1968, and Johnny Cash. Hardin even had mild chart success with his own single of “Hang Onto A Dream” c/w “Reason To Believe” which reached no.38 on the UK ‘Disc’ chart (21 January 1967). First time I heard the song I was driving in my first mini, I slowed into the roadside to stop and listen until each note had faded, transfixed by its toe-curlingly delicate beauty. I bought the album that same week. 

The ripple climaxed the following July 17, when Tim sold out the Royal Albert Hall, playing to an audience that not only included Donovan, but various Beatles and Rolling Stones too.

It seems incredible that a talent capable of creating such stunning first statements would be unable to follow their success. All the best songs for both albums had been written during one eight-month period – according to a ‘Melody Maker’ interview (26 January 1974), and yet a later ‘Best Of Tim Hardin’ (1969) compilation was, with some justification, made up of material exclusively taken from just these two sets. It could be suggested that the impasse lay in the basic simplicity of the formula – that all its possible variations ha been exhausted.

It’s also true that later recordings became more structured in production terms, and that Hardin himself repeatedly downgraded his own skills as a writer – preferring to see himself as a performer and interpreter of material. Yet the fact of creative decline is escapable. There are mitigating personal problems, most immediately a bout of bad health that took him through a recuperation stay in Colorado. Throughout this time he suffered from bad respiratory ailments, from pleurisy, and other unfortunate effects of his heroin habit, which he temporarily kicked through a sleep cure in 1968 following an abortive British tour down-bill of Family.

There were also complications with Hardin’s contractual ties to Verve. He signed to CBS in 1968, but before being able to release original work through this new hook-up, his commitment to Verve had to be fulfilled. Hence a few ‘contract filler’ albums emerged. ‘Tim Hardin 3’ is in-concert material, but although largely a live hits collection, it remains a mesmerising performance, from the sleeve-notes revealing that ‘drummer (Donald) McDonald wore bells around his neck which, from time to time, can be heard on the album,’ right down to the performance of “Song For Lenny” written on hearing of Lenny Bruce’s death. Hardin had known the iconoclastic comedian in New York – and the song, poignantly stating ‘never again will we be together to die,’ was born immediately after Tim had returned from a Newport Festival gig to be told the news. Tim also contributes to the ‘Why Did Lenny Bruce Die?’ spoken-word album (1966, Capitol KAO 2630).

A further song tributes another tragic hero, Amerikana pioneer Hank Williams – ‘whisky took the heartbreak from too many broken dreams, and what pain wasn’t cured by whisky was cured by too much morphine’. Shot through with hurt, the song concludes prophetically ‘I didn’t know you, but I’ve been the places you’ve been.’ The album was recorded during a 10 April 1968 concert at the New York Town Hall, one of his first gigs to follow his Colorado recuperation. It also features his ‘perfect’ band – McDonald on drums, Warren Bernhardt doubling on piano and clarinet, Daniel Honkin on guitar, plus Eddie Gomez (bass) and Mike Manier (vibes).

‘Tim Hardin 4’ (February 1969) has a more complex history, made up of excerpts from the demonstration tapes recorded prior to the Verve contract, material – according to ‘ZigZag no.43’, dating from as early as 1963, and taken over by the label when they recruited Tim to their roster. A few of the items – “Ain’t Gonna Do Without” and “Smuggling Man” had already been plundered from these tapes and slipped onto ‘1’ without Hardin’s consent. The former is a retread of “Long Tall Shorty” personalised by the opening lines ‘they call me long tall Timmy’. Now “Airmobile” is a Chuck Berry-styled number, taken uncharacteristically up-tempo. The inclusion of “Bo Diddley” sees a second nod in the same direction, while “Whiskey, Whiskey” is an impromptu thing made up in the studio. The album’s inclusion of “House Of The Rising Sun” and “Danville Dame” is also something of an oddity, as versions of these songs were already available on the Atlantic-vintage set ‘This Is Tim Hardin’. The musicians on ‘4’ are Hardin’s back-up from his Night Owl dates – Felix Pappalardi on bass, Sticks Eglin on drums, Bill Chuff on piano, and John Sebastian on rhythm guitar and harmonica. The latter appearing just prior to forming Lovin Spoonful.


If 1968 had proved to be a confusing year, then 1969 starts out as though it might go some way towards providing an artistic vindication. But there are continuities too. The sleeve of ‘2’ shows Tim gazing moodily out of a window. Behind him stands his pregnant wife, while the storyline of the conman-thief “Lady Came From Baltimore” reveals that ‘the lady’s name was Susan Moore.’ The first album for CBS is the extended song-cycle ‘Suite For Susan Moore And Damion: We Are One, One, All Is One’. An idyll to domesticity and married love, it proved an ambitious, if occasionally unwieldy project, ‘so laid-back’ according to ‘Melody Maker’ that ‘it barely exists.’ But what it lacks in the directness and melodic simplicity of ‘1’ and ‘2’ it goes some small way towards compensating through its inclusion of poetry eulogising his love for his new child and actress wife (she was featured in the US daytime Soap ‘The Young Marrieds’).

Sessions took place in Nashville, and in Hardin’s own Woodstock house in New York state – ‘the most comprehensive studio in existence. It was a log-house, you could almost have called it a mansion. It wasn’t palatial, but it was very large, and was built of split logs (‘Melody Maker’ 26 January 1974). The playing time is separated into four distinct suites or ‘Implications’, the closing track – “Susan”, a recital on which he’s joined by his wife, while “A Question Of Birth” is about the onset of parenthood and its attendant responsibilities, which had started out as a poem printed on the reverse of ‘Tim Hardin 2’. The sleeve of the ‘Susan Moore’ package is an impressionistic orange-yellow painting quite at odds to the sparse and direct understatement of his earlier work. Reception was mixed. ‘New Musical Express’ opines that ‘gone is the simplicity – and in its place, a cynical sneer at life.’ Later, ultimately even Tim himself professed a sense of dissatisfaction with the set. ‘Maybe it was too soon, or maybe I did not have the right musical aggregation?’

1969 ended ironically with Hardin enjoying his only American chart single – a Bobby Darin penned “Simple Song Of Freedom”! A now-rare collector’s item it spent two weeks at no.50 on the ‘Cashbox’ lists. In some ways the song is self-parody and, on a wider scale, a pastiche of the whole Folk-Protest movement, clear down to the pseudo-PF Sloan inclusion of an irritating girlie chorus and the down-home philosophising of ‘we the people here, don’t want a war’. Tim carries the sentiment with broken sincerity, and makes the song his own.

Hardin was ‘bedevilled by ill-health and bad advice’, and with the collapse of his marriage, things did not get better. The album ‘Bird On A Wire’ in July 1971, largely consists of Hardin’s versions of other people’s songs. “Andre Johray” is original and impressive, and even ‘Melody Maker’ concedes that on the anguished title cut ‘Tim puts more feeling and personal significance into the song than even (its writer, Leonard) Cohen could muster.’ Such praise hardly mitigates the conspicuous lack of new material. “Bird On A Wire” itself starts with just electric keyboard, but builds to a big production job with chorus – Tim pointedly personalising the lyrics from ‘like a worm on the hook’ to ‘like a man on the hook’. The rest of the tracks develop into areas of textural sophistication that seem at odds with Hardin’s Folky roots. “Soft Summer Breeze” is vaguely funky – jazzers Joe Zawinul, Miroslav Vitous, Ralph Turner and Glenn Moore adding fusion flexibility to the sound. Bobby Hebb’s “A Satisfied Mind” is pleasant if unexceptional while the plaintive “Moonshiner” with its subtle convolutions works quite well. But the reading of Ray Charles’ “Georgia On My Mind” is occasionally embarrassing.

With this release it becomes apparent that expectations for new Hardin work can no longer be pitched as high as ‘1’ and ‘2’, and that this has become the new norm, not merely a bad career-patch. The somewhat doomy sleeve photo pictures Hardin heavily bearded and slouch-hatted, he also appears anaemically pale and unhealthy.

He later claimed he had yet to receive royalties for any of the many covers of his earlier songs – while new versions continue to mine that same slim vein. Cliff Aungier and Joan Baez record “Lady Came From Baltimore”, “Misty Roses” came from Johnny Mathis and Cilla Black, William E Kimber and Scott Walker cut versions of “Black Sheep Boy” while Ian Matthews chooses “Tribute To Hank Williams”. Nico’s exquisite ‘Chelsea Girl’ (1967) had already used Hardin’s “Eulogy To Lenny Bruce”, an association that led to a raucous and poorly-reviewed jam when Tim joins her on-stage at the LA ‘Whisky A Go Go’ in late June 1979.

Later, Wilson Phillips platinum debut album (1990) includes their close-harmony rendition of “Reason To Believe”, following a live cover of the same song done a year earlier by Billy Bragg (on a free flexi for ‘Catalogue’ magazine). The material is often handled with respect, but none can match the cracked melancholia of Hardin’s original – as emphasised when Verve reissue the first two albums as a double set, while simultaneously farming out the material onto compilations. “Misty Roses” oddly occurs on an Island sampler called ‘Windy Bama Winds’ (ILPS 9096)!

At the same time Tim began playing live British dates – including one at Tupholme Manor Park near Lincoln (24 July 1971) down-bill of the Byrds, and one at the ‘Rainbow’ with the Steve Miller Band (4 March 1972).

‘Painted Head’ (1973) became Tim’s last set for CBS. It was recorded at the Apple studios in London with Peter Frampton playing guitar, and Hardin displaying a strange mix of styles from the flawed R&B of “You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover”, to the raucous rootsiness of the dance-orientated single “Do The Do”. Tim was obviously drawn by a long-term affinity to such Blues forays, but while strong voices-for-hire are useful, the ability to write a song as startling as “If I Were A Carpenter” is unique.

It was followed by ‘Nine’ (1973) – his last ever studio album, produced by Jimmy Horowitz for the British Indie GM label. A set that seems to be a culmination of directions signalled across the previous years – a steady move away from the Folk-Poet image, which he’d always repudiated anyway. As early as a March 1972 interview he’d told Michael Watts that he considers himself a singer rather than a songwriter. The Jazz-Blues roots had mellowed out into a kind of White Funk with Tim treated more as the group vocalist than a solo artist with support musicians. It seems an almost willed destruction of his own sensitivity, of his own ‘fast-flying muse’. ‘I should have been a tasteful Tom Jones’ he once confided – in a monumental misjudgement of his own potential, to Folk journalist Colin Irwin. The approach is accentuated – on “Person To Person”, by the chorus voices of Lesley Duncan and Madelaine Bell. Then, as if to stress the Blues continuity in his work, he reworks Fred Neil’s “Blues On The Ceiling”, first featured on ‘This Is Tim Hardin’.

Frampton is again in evidence on ‘Nine’, working with a band consisting of Dave Thompson on piano, Peter Dennis on bass, Jim Gannon on guitar and drummer Mike Driscoll. Alongside six self-penned songs Hardin selects material from Oscar Brown Jrn, and James Taylor’s “Fire And Rain” – a song singularly suited to both his interpretation and experience. There are meandering love songs, but the accent is decidedly against the lyrical, as distinct from the musical content, what ‘Q’ magazine describes as ‘aimless and shambolic – as indeed is most of the messy backing, Al Kooperesque organ, showband strings, crooning girls and all’ (John Bauldie, February 1991). But “Shiloh Town” – the most powerful of the new songs, catches something of his earlier stripped-back fire, on a humorous note with ‘it’s so cold in Shiloh Town, the birds can’t hardly sing, pretty girls are gonna leave the town, they won’t be back till spring’ – equating girls to migratory birds, then conflating Shiloh’s Civil War legacy with a hint at Vietnam, ‘the war has been won, they come back home, but they’re the one’s that lost, I see a man and a woman alone, was it worth the cost?’

The sleeve shows him looking more relaxed, clean-shaven, seen through a soft haze of cigar smoke. But Hardin was – by then, living and working in a ‘drug and booze haze’ (Bauldie) from a London address. To promote ‘Nine’ he toured with a four-piece group co-headlining with fellow GM artist Lesley Duncan, a tour that marked his first appearances in two years, apart from a guest spot at the Reading Festival. Later, in December 1975, he joined German experimentalists Can on stage at Drury Lane for a largely chaotic number – announcing him under the alias ‘Deacon James’.

There was also talk of a career link-up with Tim Rose, the man responsible for the late-sixties cult single “Morning Dew”, whose own once-promising career was also bottoming. They played a joint concert at London’s City University (7 November 1974), and although a qualified success, for those who truly cared about Tim Hardin, it was difficult to accept that he’d never again write songs of the calibre of those early gems. And although those first songs were still very much in circulation, still commanding respect, there was little but silence to come.

Leonard Cohen may have written a novel called ‘Beautiful Losers’ (1966), but it was Tim Hardin who lived the title.

Snatches of his personal and artistic decline can be glimpsed in snapshot images from the following years. Briefly Justin de Villeneuve – former Twiggy manipulator, became Hardin’s manager, retrospecting those days in his autobiography ‘An Affectionate Punch’ (1986, Sidgwick and Jackson). Reviews of the book speak of ‘the squalid junkie antics of a dying Tim Hardin’ (‘New Musical Express’, 23 August 1986). A similar picture of terminal addiction is caught with excruciating accuracy in the factional novel ‘Wonderland Avenue’ by Doors devotee and Rock PR ‘Wild Child’ Danny Sugerman (1989, Sidgwick and Jackson).

Then there’s the final album, appropriately called ‘The Homecoming Concert’ (1982), played live at the Community Center for the Performing Arts in Eugene, Oregon, and taped by former schoolfriend Phil Freeman. Hardin plays the concert solo. It’s sparse, naked, the cracks and bruises leaving his voice even more an instrument of desolate melancholy than it appeared doing the same songs on ‘Tim Hardin 3’. His twixt-song dialogues blur and wander disjointedly. It was 1980, the first time he’d played the town of his birth, and the last time he’d perform anywhere. There’s resignation in the inevitability of the song selection, drawing heavily from the first two albums, but a pride in the obvious strength of that material which he invests with compellingly stark dignity.

The opening number is “Black Sheep Boy”. The first line ‘here I am back home again, I’m here to rest…’


July 1966 – ‘TIM HARDIN 1’ (Verve SVLP/VLP 5018, Verve Forecast FT/FTS 3004) with side one: ‘Don’t Make Promises’, ‘Green Rocky Road’, ‘Smugglin Man’, ‘How Long’, ‘While You’re On Your Way’, ‘It’ll Never Happen Again’. Side two: ‘Reason To Believe’, ‘Never Too Far’, ‘Part Of The Wind’, ‘Ain’t Gonna Do Without’, ‘Misty Roses’, ‘Hang Onto A Dream’. Producer: Erik Jacobsen

1966 – ‘Don’t Make Promises’ c/w ‘Smugglin Man’ (Verve Forecast VS 1516)

January 1967 – ‘Hang Onto A Dream’ c/w ‘Reason To Believe’ (Verve VS 1504) UK no.50

March 1967 – ‘Black Sheep Boy’ c/w ‘Misty Roses’ (USA, Verve Folkways KF 5048)

April 1967 – ‘TIM HARDIN 2’ (Verve VLP 6002, Verve Forecast FT/FTS 3022) with side one: ‘If I Were A Carpenter’, ‘Red Balloon’, ‘Black Sheep Boy’, ‘The Lady Came From Baltimore’, ‘Baby Close Its Eyes’. Side two: ‘You Upset The Grace Of Living When You Lie’, ‘Speak Like A Child’, ‘See Where You Are And Get Out’, ‘It’s Hard To Believe In Love For Long’, ‘Tribute To Hank Williams’. Original LP release has back-cover Tim Hardin poem ‘A Question Of Birth’. Producer: Charles Koppelman and Don Rubin

June 1967 – ‘Tribute To Hank Williams’ c/w ‘You Upset The Grace Of Living’ (Verve Forecast KF 5059)

September 1967 – ‘THIS IS TIM HARDIN’ (Atlantic 587082, ATCO 33-210) demos from 1963-1964 with side one: ‘I Can’t Slow Down’ (Tim Hardin), ‘Blues On The Ceiling’ (Fred Neil), ‘Stagger Lee’ (Trad), ‘(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man’ (Willie Dixon), ‘I’ve Been Working On The Railroad’ (Trad). Side two: ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ (Trad), ‘Fast Freight’ (Hardin with Terry Gilkyson), ‘Cocaine Bill’ (Trad), ‘You Got To Have More Than One Woman’ (Hardin), ‘Danville Dame’ (Hardin with Steve Weber). Producer: Daniel N Flickinger. Reissued Edsel ED 309

November 1967 – ‘Lady Came From Baltimore’ c/w ‘Black Sheep Boy’ (Verve Forecast VS 1511)

November 1968 – ‘TIM HARDIN 3: LIVE IN CONCERT’ (Verve VLP 6010, Verve Forecast FTS 3049) with ‘Lady Came From Baltimore’, ‘Reason To Believe’, ‘You Upset The Grace Of Living’, ‘Misty Roses’, ‘Black Sheep Boy’, ‘Lenny’s Tune’, ‘Don’t Make Promises’, ‘Danville Dame’, ‘If I Were A Carpenter’, ‘Red Balloon’, ‘Tribute To Hank Williams’, ‘Smugglin Man’. Producer: Gary Klein. Reissued with bonus tracks ‘Turn The Page’, ‘If I Knew’, ‘Last Sweet Moment’ and ‘First Love Song’

February 1969 – ‘TIM HARDIN 4’ (Verve SVL 6016, Verve Forecast FTS 3064) recordings from May 1964, with ‘Airmobile’, ‘Whiskey Whiskey’, ‘Seventh Son’ (Willie Dixon), ‘How Long’, ‘Danville Dame’, ‘Ain’t Gonna Do Without: Parts 1 and 2’, ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ (Trad), ‘Bo Diddley’ (Bo Diddley), ‘I Can’t Slow Down’, ‘Hello Baby’. Producer: Erik Jacobsen

April 1969 – ‘SUITE FOR SUSAN MOORE AND DAMION: WE ARE ONE, ONE, ALL IN ONE’ (CBS 63571, Columbia CS 9787) with side one: Implication 1 ‘First Love Song’, ‘Everything Good Became More True’, Implication 2 ‘Question Of Birth’, ‘Once Touched By Flame’, ‘Last Sweet Moments’. Side two: Implication 3 ‘Magician’, ‘Loneliness She Knows’, End Of Implication ‘The Country I’m Living In’, ‘One, One, The Perfect Sum’, ‘Susan’. Producer: Gary Klein

September 1969 – ‘Simple Song Of Freedom’ c/w ‘Question Of Birth’ (Columbia 4-44920) US no.50

July 1971 – ‘BIRD ON A WIRE’ (CBS 64335, Columbia CK-30551) with side one: ‘Bird On The Wire’ (Cohen), ‘Moonshiner’ (Trad), ‘Southern Butterfly’, ‘A Satisfied Mind’ (Joe Hayes and Jack Rhodes), ‘Soft Summer Breeze’. Side two: ‘Hoboin’ (John Lee Hooker), ‘Georgia On My Mind’ (Hoagy Carmichael), ‘Andre Johray’, ‘If I Knew’, ‘Love Hymn’. Producer: Ed Freeman

January 1973 – ‘Do The Do’ c/w ‘Sweet Lady’ (CBS S 1016)

February 1973 – ‘PAINTED HEAD’ (CBS 65209, Columbia CK-31764) with side one: ‘You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover’ (Willie Dixon), ‘Midnight Caller’ (Pete Ham), ‘Yankee Lady’ (Jesse Winchester), ‘Lonesome Valley’ (Trad), ‘Sweet Lady’ (Dino-Sembello). Side two: ‘Do the Do’ (Willie Dixon), ‘Perfection’ (Pete Ham), ‘Till We Meet Again’ (Neil Sheppard), ‘I’ll Be Home’ (Randy Newman), ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out’ (Tony Cox). Producer: Tony Meehan

November 1973 – ‘NINE’ (GM GLM 1004, Antilles AN-7023) with side one: ‘Shiloh Town’, ‘Never Too Far’, ‘Rags And Old Iron’ (Oscar Brown-Norman Curtis), ‘Look Our Love Over’, ‘Person To Person’ (Hardin with Andy Brown). Side two: ‘Darling Girl’ (d’Albuquerque), ‘Blues On The Ceiling’, ‘Is There No Rest For The Weary’ (Troiano), ‘Fire And Rain’ (James Taylor), ‘While You’re On Your Way’ plus 1994 bonus track ‘Judge And Jury’ (1973 UK-only single). Producer: Jimmy Horowitz. Reissued Marquee Classic MQCLP 003

1981 – ‘UNFORGIVEN’ (San Francisco Sound SFS 10810), uncompleted studio recordings and home cassette demos from 1980, side one: ‘Unforgiven’, ‘Luna Cariba’, ‘Mercy Wind’, ‘If I Were Still With You’. Side two: ‘Judge And Jury’, ‘Partly Yours’, ‘Sweet Feeling’, ‘Secret’ with Nicky Hopkins (Piano), Ricky Fataar (drums), Johnny Lee (guitar) and producers Don and Caroline Rubin

April 1981– ‘THE HOMECOMING CONCERT’ (Kamera/ Line LLP 5124 AS, Line Germany LICD 9.00040) recorded 17 January 1980 with ‘Black Sheep Boy’, ‘Misty Roses’, ‘Reason To Believe’, ‘Lady Came From Baltimore’, ‘Old Blue Jeans’, ‘Hang Onto A Dream’, ‘If I Were A Carpenter’, ‘Tribute To Hank Williams’, ‘Smugglin Man’, ‘Speak Like A Child’, ‘Red Balloon’, ‘Amen’. Producer: Phil Freeman


September 1969 – ‘THE BEST OF TIM HARDIN’ (MGM 2317 003/ SVLP 6019, Verve Forecast FTS 3078) with side one: ‘Don’t Make Promises’, ‘It’ll Never Happen Again’, ‘Tribute To Hank Williams’, ‘Misty Roses’, ‘Hang Onto A Dream’. Side two: ‘If I Were A Carpenter’, ‘Reason To Believe’, ‘Black Sheep Boy’, ‘Red Balloon’, ‘Smugglin Man’, ‘Lady Came From Baltimore’

1981 – ‘THE TIM HARDIN MEMORIAL ALBUM’ (Polydor PD-1-6333)

August 1974 – ‘TIM HARDIN 1/ TIM HARDIN 2’ (Verve Double Album)

1981 – ‘TIM HARDIN: THE SHOCK OF GRACE’ (CBS Columbia PC 37164) compilation compiled by Bruce Dickenson from the three CBS albums

1989 – ‘TIM HARDIN: REASON TO BELIEVE’ (Polydor 833954) compilation compiled from ‘Tim Hardin 1’ and ‘Tim Hardin 2’

1990 – ‘READING FESTIVAL 1973’ (Marquee MQCCD001, SEECD 343), live album with just two Hardin tracks, ‘Hang Onto A Dream’ and ‘Person To Person’, plus the Faces (‘Losing You’, last ever Rod & Faces appearances), Lesley Duncan (‘Earth Mother’), Rory Gallagher (‘Hands Off’), Strider, Status Quo


Album Review of: 
(Fulltime Hobby FTH100CD) 

Tim Hardin could do simple. And that’s difficult. Lots of folk can do complex. That’s more obvious. It was Tim’s gift of simplicity that makes his songs ideal for interpretation. As Barney Hoskyns’ excellent insert-notes point out, Hardin had ‘the shock of grace’. And everyone has already plundered that grace. From Bobby Darin and the Small Faces, through to Johnny Mathis and the appalling Rod Stewart. Yet these thirteen carefully thought-through new covers both choose less obvious titles from the back-catalogue, and add some unexpected soundscapes, from regular acoustic indie through to otherwise unfamiliar settings. Mark Lanegan’s “Red Balloon” doesn’t mess with the original and stays close to the blueprint, while Snorri Helgason and Alela Diane take both “Misty Roses” and “Hang Onto A Dream” pretty-much straight revealing the song’s clean purity. Unlike the Smoke Fairies’ dense massive attack on “If I Were A Carpenter” and the piercingly incisive Hannah Peel on the Lenny Bruce tribute (‘why after every last shot, was there always another’), or the Magentic North’s reinterpretation of “It’s Hard To Believe” taken in a way that drives you back to recheck the Hardin version. Elsewhere the Sand Band’s dobro-keening “Reason To Believe”, and “Shiloh Town” in the hands of Gavin Clark becomes a country-strum rising into anthemic heights. Most radical revision is (Sam Gender’s) Diagrams bleeping-reworking of “Part Of The Wind” and Pinkunoizu’s haunted electro-World “I Can’t Slow Down”. While the ensemble close-harmony Phoenix Foundation’s “Don’t Make Promises” would be a hit single in some kinder cleverer alternate reality. Thirteen new Reasons To Believe. A new dream to hang onto.

Published in:
‘R2: ROCK ‘N’ REEL Vol.2 Issue.39 May/June’
(UK – May 2013)

Tuesday 26 July 2016

From Mod To Brit-Psych: THE ALAN BOWN!


Cult Mod singles, Cult Brit-Psych albums, 
The Alan Bown had everything
… except a hit record 


First they were the brass-heavy Mod-cult Alan Bown Set, then they caught the psychedelic wave as The Alan Bown! until eventually they were just Alan Bown, evolving from cool jazzy blues through blue-eyed soul and R&B to end up a progressive rock combo. Yet, although the chart visibility of their finest records was minimal, they’re respected for developing and launching the careers of numerous musicians from the mighty Robert Palmer and Jess Roden, to Supertramp and King Crimson via Mel Collins, John Helliwell and Dougie Thomson.

Rock trumpet-players are fairly thin on the ground. Herb Alpert doesn’t really qualify. Alan James Bown was born 21 July 1942 in his parent’s front room in Slough, Berkshire. Heavily influenced by modern jazz, he got to see Miles Davis play Newcastle, saw the Joe Harriott Quintet play at Slough’s Dolphin Hotel – while still too young for the licensing laws, and took regular trips the Marquee to catch sets by the Tubby Hayes Quintet and Phil Seamen Band. Following his compulsory National Service RAF stint he joined The Embers as trumpet player in 1963. They were a hard-working live group, with a repertoire based around jazzy R&B, who play venues as far away as the Reeperbahn ‘Star Club’, around the time the Beatles were also in Hamburg.

Then the Young Man With The Horn up-gears to join The John Barry Seven in September 1963 – this is after the JB7’s peak as an ingredient of Adam Faith’s chart-topping Pop-formula, and after hits in their own right with their cover of the Ventures “Walk Don’t Run”, TVs ‘Juke Box Jury’ theme “Hit And Miss”, then the Barry-penned “James Bond Theme”. By November 1964 Bown was part of the line-up playing back-up for Brenda Lee, on the French and German legs of her European tour. Marty Wilde was part of the same show, and they back him too. With Barry himself spending more time composing, Bown soon escalates to become leader of the touring band, and seizes the opportunity of cutting his first record with them – the Mod-danceable horns-punching “Twenty-Four Hours Ago” c/w “Seven Faces” (1964, Columbia DB 7414), with vocals by Mike O’Neil, and a slinky Hammond-led instrumental flip. Annoyingly, it’s right then that John Barry imposes three months notice that he’s breaking the band up in 1965, in order to free up more time for his film commitments.

Decisively, Alan took three former members of Barry’s Seven along with him as the basis for the first Alan Bown Set around May 1965 – Jeff Bannister (born 7 January 1943, lead vocals and organ), Dave Green (sax, clarinet and flute) and Stan Haldane (bass), reinforced by Pete Burgess (guitar) and Vic Sweeney (drums). Sounding very much like the bluesy groove they’d achieved on their John Barry single, they build a solid reputation playing R&B and Soul on the same burgeoning Club circuit as Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames and Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band. Soon spotted by Tony Hatch, he signs them to Pye Records, and produces their debut single “Can’t Let Her Go” c/w “I’m The One”. Its jazzy tempo softened by vocal harmonies, it attracts attention, but fails to chart.

Alan himself was always the Man With The Golden Trumpet, never front-man vocalist. Like, say, Manfred Mann or Dave Clark, he preferred to influence the group’s direction indirectly. ‘A bright-shirted trumpeter who loves waiting like he loves toothache and kissing his mother goodbye, wanders onto the stage and plays three notes, unaware that it’s now quiet and all eyes are on him…’ according to sleeve-notes. In January 1966 Dave Green was replaced by John ‘John Anthony’ Helliwell, then – a month later, Jess Roden comes in as joint vocalist (from Kidderminster’s Shakedown Sound), allowing Jeff Bannister to concentrate more on keyboards. Together they guest on ‘Ready Steady Go!’ (July), while headlining at Soho’s ‘Marquee’ where Alan had once paid to see top-line bands. On a rainy Sunday bill (31 July) they play ‘The Sixth National Jazz & Blues Festival’ – the first at its Windsor site, alongside The Action, Georgie Fame, Bluesology and one of Cream’s first-ever live sets – with an all-day ticket priced at a modest ten shillings!

Their heavy clubbing tour-schedule was boosted into overdrive by the first intimations of just how strong they could be on record, with their tight cover of Edwin Starr’s “Headline News”. Like a street-corner newsvendor announcing to the world’s media about the new Baby he’s found, and – ‘oh what a change in me’, Roden’s raw pleading ‘Extra! Extra!’ is set against high falsetto ‘Read all about it’ call-and-response backing. Roden’s wailing voice can also be heard on the Who’s “Magic Bus”, so it’s not impossible that Pete Townshend picked up and adapted the ‘Extra Extra, Read All About It, Pinball Wizard In A Miracle Cure’ line for ‘Tommy’ from this record. 

Although I was living in the north-eastern Humberside wastes of Hull I pick up on the Alan Bown Set name from ‘Record Mirror’ club-listings, record reviews and panel-ads, and – of course, the records are on unmissably high rotation at Mod clubs like ‘The Gondola’ and ‘The Kon-Tiki’. The venues are sweaty and loud. The buzz is electric. Mod is an elitist subculture in which chart placings are seen as commercial sell-out, and purism rules. Some Mods just want to dance, and be seen dancing, all that matters is the beat. For other more trainspottery members of the in-crowd, the original is still the greatest. For them, as with Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band, when it comes to hipness, we know the American singles always retain the legitimising sheen of authenticity. But those Motown or Stax artist are elsewhere, Alan Bown is here and now… 

Building on the strengths of “Headline News”, there’s “Emergency 999” – written by folkie Paul Korda but structured around a similarly compulsive groove, with the kind of slightly off-kilter klaxon-horn riff later to be replicated by Dexy’s Midnight Runners. His girl has left him, stop that thief, she stole his heart. ‘Hear my song, move along…’

Again, its club popularity fails to yield chart returns, although later it gets rediscovered by Northern Soul devotees as a lost anthem. Meanwhile, the Bown Set are recorded live ‘invitation-only’ with Jimmy James & The Vagabonds, and released as a joint album together as ‘London Swings: Live At The Marquee Club’. I guess half an album is better than none, and the seven tracks captured on side two – including “Headline News” and “Emergency 999” catches something of the live excitement they generate onstage. ‘Dedicated to those who couldn’t get in, and those who are hooked enough to want to hear it all again’, it’s the only extended recorded evidence left by this phase of the Set’s evolution. 

In November 1966 guitarist Pete Burgess is replaced by Tony Catchpole in time for “Gonna Fix You Good (Everytime You’re Bad)” c/w “I Really, Really Care” – although again, it’s a cover, this time of a Little Anthony & The Imperials original, it’s the third of a trilogy of classic club singles that define that era of intense Mod cultdom. Smoother, with keyboard play-in, and an even more forcefully percussive flip, it’s very near the last of the ‘set’. But first they get to contribute to the soundtrack of ‘Jeu De Massacre’ (aka ‘The Killing Game’) a French spy-spoof film scored by Jacques Loussier. Impressively, their kiss-kiss-bang-bang track comes with horn-driven tempo-changes from frantic gunshot ‘you’re dead’ vocal-effects, down to slow interludes. 

While they’re recording sessions for the BBCs ‘Rhythm and Blues’ programme in 1966 and ‘Saturday Club’ in 1967, Pete Stringfellow promotes the Set at his ‘King Mojo’ club, recalling that ‘in Sheffield we had never seen anything like the Alan Bown Set… Alan’s trumpet was bent at the end, and when I first saw this I thought he had stood on it and broken it’… not so, ‘it was one of the things that helps us remember how talented the band was during this period’ (the introduction to the book ‘The Alan Bown Set Before And Beyond’). They were already fluent musicians, technically accomplished and jazz-literate. 


The expiry of the band’s contract with Pye in 1967, offers the opportunity to reform the band as ‘The Alan Bown!’ a more psychedelic concoction for Verve Records. Dropping the ‘set’ and adding the exclamation mark is to denote a career punctuation, because the vibe is shifting, moving away from slavishly replicating cult American R&B, and more about the credibility of originating new material. Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band had metamorphosed into Dantalion’s Chariot. Simon Dupree’s Big Sound were in the Top Ten with “Kites”. ‘We were still mimicking the Americans yet things coming across from the States were moving in different direction – Pop music was growing up’ as Jess explained it. 

And there’s already a shifting pool of writers within the group, who finally get to release their first full-length album ‘Outward Bown’ in 1967. A charming artefact of Brit-psych, both sides start with strong singles – “Toyland” opening with school playground sounds and “Storybook” opening with manic echoplexed laughter, which both capture the gently innovative whimsy and lyrical nursery-rhyme escapism that’s close enough to suggest a hallucinogenic input, yet vague enough to escape censor. Although there’s none of the unsettling darkness of a Syd Barrett, or the hard Freak-beat edge of Creation, the twelve tracks present stronger songs than many of their high-charting contemporaries. 

They’re tight and cleanly-produced – ‘things down there aren’t quite so square in Toyland’, decorated with strummed acoustic guitar, woodwind and pizzicato strings, while retaining muted horns on tracks such as “Sally Green” and the more high-energy “Penny For Your Thoughts” which builds to a staccato climax. The slow bass lead-in to the “Storybook” break would later be replicated by 10cc for their “I’m Not In Love”. The only two non-originals on the album are a complex tempo-change cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” – the stage version of which reportedly ‘directly inspired the Jimi Hendrix arrangement of the song’, and a summery ba-ba-ba close-harmony arrangement of Dion DiMucci’s “My Girl Of The Month”. Promoted by appearances on John Peel’s ‘Top Gear’, it was a well-regarded underground LP at the time, which remains highly collectable vinyl now.

It also marks the start of a second run of perfect little singles, the third of which – “We Can Help You” rises all the way to no.26 in the UK chart – but only in the ‘New Musical Express’, so no use looking for it in your ‘Guinness Book Of Hit Singles’. Rejigged from a track on the original Nirvana’s ‘The Story Of Simon Simopath’ (1967) album, with the lyrical addition of an anthemic ‘Happiness Society’ chorus enhanced by baroque twiddly string breaks, it enters at no.29, 24 August 1968, to peak the following week in a chart oddly headed by Tom Jones’ “Help Yourself”, with trumpet-playing Herb Alpert at no.3 with “This Guy’s In Love With You”. It earns them a ‘Top Of The Pops’ slot (8 August), but a strike at the pressing plant determines they’re unable to capitalise on the exposure. 

In 1969 they label-switch again, to Deram Records yielding a minor hit with “Still as Stone”, swirling a ‘test-tube of life’ fronted by effervescing-strong guitar and Jess Roden’s most roaring vocal. ‘The Alan Bown! are without a doubt one of the most exciting live acts ever to raise screams from a delirious audience’ enthuses the press-ad, and ‘this is about as alive as a record can get without actually leaping off the record-player!’ It was backed up by lucrative radio dates. As the BBC was subject to restricted needle time – requiring ‘live’ performances between the records, the Bown were among a select roster of bands who record cover sessions for the BBC, appearing on the ‘Jimmy Young Show’, ‘The David Symonds Show’ and others. They could be seen on Alan Freeman’s fast-moving TV ‘All Systems Freeman’, as well as spots on the Simon Dee and Eamonn Andrews chat-shows.

There’s a continuing confusion concerning their next album ‘The Alan Bown!’. Roden told journalist Chris Charlesworth ‘I just couldn’t get into what Alan was doing. I was writing my own songs all the time and getting too involved in that.’ So ‘I left Alan Bown because I wanted to do something of my own’ (‘Melody Maker’, August 1970). So snappily-dressed Robert Palmer is hastily drafted in from the Scarborough-based Mandrakes. With tracks initially recorded before Roden left, Palmer’s voice is promptly over-dubbed (save those tracks Roden had co-composed), in time for the album's UK release. But not before the Roden vocals had escaped, to be issued as the American LP. Hence, two overlapping versions continue to coexist. Nevertheless, the ambition is seldom in doubt. “The Prisoner” is a ten-minute segmented narrative track fading in like the primal detonation of the cosmos, moving through a soft ‘Whiter Shade Of Pale’ sequence into screeching vocals, choral passages and rocking guitar, until the narrative ends with the Prisoner’s release into freedom. The new line-up is boosted by an appearance on BBC TVs ‘Disco Two’ (an early version of ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’). 

1970 brought fresh changes, the seven-piece band jump labels yet again, this time to Island. And Palmer quits just as they’re recording the album ‘Listen’. Recalling Jess Roden’s treatment, Fred Deller points out with some satisfaction that ‘later Palmer was to suffer the same indignity when tracks HE recorded with Bown were scrapped and replaced by those made by his vocal successor’ (‘NME’ 20 February 1988). And yes, new singer Gordon Neville re-records the vocal tracks before the album’s eventually release. Then the spin-off single “Pyramid” is released just before bassist Andy Brown replaces long-term member Stan Haldane, and Mel Collins is drafted in on sax. ‘The introduction reminds me a little of ‘Wheels Of Fire’’, enthuses ‘Melody Maker’, ‘but the feeling is the old brass bite of Bown and co, and MAYBE their hit – at last.’ For the album, there’s a punchier more prominent horn presence, contemporary with the complex Blood Sweat & Tears or Chicago arrangements, the steaming largely-instrumental “Make Up Your Mind” opens and continues with torrid free blowing throughout, while “Crash Landing” slots easily into new smooth jazz-literate proggy improvisations, with meticulous horn section fills around the keyboards and long meandering soloing passages.

They’d come a long way, influenced by fashion-shifts, but always retaining a smart distinction. And there would be one final album, ‘Stretching Out’ (1971), promoted by a re-appeared on ‘Disco Two’. As the title suggests – ‘stretching out in a new direction’, it’s a looser more jazz-rock approach, with more slick soloing. Not a new development, obviously those elements have always been there, but given free reign in a more progressive context. Both the title track and “The Messenger” extend to a full eight-minutes, tightly arranged with duelling brass and Bown’s most prominent horn solo ever, recalling Ian Carr’s work with Nucleus. While “Find A Melody” is built around a noodling jazz-riff worthy of – say, Steely Dan. “Build Me A Stage” has a similarly appealing wistfulness, ‘build me a stage and I’ll sing for you…’ adding ‘if you want me to.’ There’s a sense of summing-up, of end-statement here. ‘Build it right here and I’ll play for you’ adding ‘the best I can do.’ Well – they’d done all that. 

But it was a period of rapid line-up changes. Jeff Bannister – who’d been there since the JB7, left, but was not replaced, then Dougie Thomson replaces Andy Brown and Derek Griffiths – formerly with The Artwoods, replaces Catchpole. This line-up remained more-or-less stable until February 1972, when Bown presses reset, and forms a new band with Dave Lawson (keyboards) Tony Dangerfield (bass) Frank White (guitar), replaced by Pete Goodall – formerly with Thunderclap Newman, Nick Payn (tenor sax/ flute) and Alan Coulter (drums). It was to be the last hurrah, after a major tour, Bown finally disbands the group in July 1972.

Yet the musical strengths and potential were evident in future developments. Alan himself – playing flugelhorn or Miles-like on his Super Olds trumpet with Gardinelli mouthpiece, joins Jonesy, with Fred Deller reviewing the five-piece’s third album – ‘Growing’ (February 1974, Dawn) with ‘Alan Bown has at last found the right niche.’ Yet an unobtrusive line hidden away in ‘NME’ in July 1974 notes that he’d graduated from performer to become CBS A&R manager. A position that nevertheless affords him the opportunity of producing a 1977 LP for Gold, formed by ex-Jonesy keyboard-player Jimmy Kaleth and drummer Richard ‘Plug’ Thomas. 

Melvyn ‘Mel’ Collins become sax-of-choice for King Crimson (from ‘Lizard’, 1970), Camel and numerous other bands. He even plays the sax solo on the Rolling Stone “Miss You”. John Helliwell and Dougie Thomson join Supertramp in time for their breakthrough ‘Crime Of The Century’ (1974) album. Gordon Neville later joins Elton John's band, and works with Rick Wakeman. Vic Sweeney works with Kevin Coyne. Pete Goodall works with Percy Sledge, Viola Wills, Carl Douglas and many more. Nick Payn plays in Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings. 

While the two vocalists both make significant marks. Trailered by a track on the ‘Bumpers’ low-price double-album sampler, Jess Roden with Jeff Bannister form highly-rated country-rockers Bronco, reuniting Jess with ex-Shakedown Sound members, before Jeff moved on to A Band Called O. After recording two albums for Island records (‘Country Home’, 1970 mixed by Paul Samwell-Smith, and ‘Ace Of Sunlight’, 1971), Bronco get derailed by a serious US West Coast autowreck, after which Jess joined ex-Doors Robby Krieger and John Densmore for the Butts Band, then records a fine New Orleans album with Allen Toussaint. Never playing to his obvious strengths, through subsequent ventures he remains a respected vocalist with a strong fan-base, while never quite on the scale of Robert Palmer. Palmer joins Dada alongside Elkie Brooks, shortly before they evolve into Vinegar Joe, which became a springboard to his own transatlantic solo success. 

Alan Bown died 16 December 2014, in Slough, by which time the various incarnations of the bands bearing his name were reaching new audiences through a series of fine CD reissues. 



September 1965 – “Can’t Let Her Go” c/w “I’m the One" (Pye 7N 15934), the more punchy ‘B’-side is a Curtis Mayfield song 

April 1966 – “Baby Don’t Push Me” c/w “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” (Pye 7N 17084), Roden’s hoarse driving vocals more in keeping with their Club set, the ‘B’-side seems to reference Junior Walker’s ‘Shotgun’ 

July 1966 – “Headline News” c/w “Mister Pleasure” (Pye 7N 17148), cover of Edwin Starr produced under Tony Hatch’s Pye house-producer Tony Reeves (later of Colosseum), ‘my name is Mr Pleasure, I’m looking for leisure…’ 

October 1966 – “Emergency 999” c/w “Settle Down” (Pye 7N 17192), ‘B’-side by Bown and Bannister 

March 1967 – “Gonna Fix You Good (Everytime You’re Bad)” c/w “I Really, Really Care” (Pye 7N 17256), ‘A’-side a cover of Little Anthony & The Imperials single by Pike-Randazzo, ironically re-issued in 1972 by UA to catch its Northern Soul underground revival, flip by Bannister-Bown

1967 – “Jeu De Massacre” (Disques Vogue EPL 8537), French four-track soundtrack EP by Jacques Loussier, with Alan Bown Set’s “Killing Game” 

1967 – “Sunny” c/w “Down In The Valley” (Pye GP 3239) Greece-only single cover of Bobby Hebb flipped with Solomon Burke, also “The Boomerang” c/w “It’s Growing” (Pye GP 3240), with Don Covay cover flipped with Sam & Dave cover

October 1967 - “Toyland” c/w “Technicolour Dream” (MGM 1355), ‘A’-side by Roden-Catchpole, flip by Bown-Bannister. Produced by Mike Hurst. Opens and closes with school-playground sounds, ‘let’s go down and blow our minds’ 

March 1968 - “Story Book” c/w “Little Lesley” (MGM 1387), ‘A’-side by Bown-Bannister, flipped with Rhoden (Roden)-Catchpole. Produced by Mike Hurst. Opens with manic laughter effect, ‘there’s magic in each page’

July 1968 – “We Can Help You” c/w “Magic Handkerchief” (Music Factory CUB1), a Patrick Campbell-Lyons-Alex Spyropoulos song from Nirvana’s ‘Story Of Simon Simopath’ album, flip by Bannister-Bown-Catchpole-Rhoden (Roden) about his Mother’s solution. Mike Hurst production. Reaches no.26 in ‘New Musical Express’ chart 31 August 

June 1969 - “Still As Stone” c/w “Wrong Idea” (Deram DM 259), ‘A’-side by Roden-Catchpole, flipped with Bown-Bannister-Roden-Catchpole. ‘Mike Hurst has really captured all their excitement and explosive atmosphere on their new single’ 

October 1969 - “Gypsy Girl” c/w “All I Can” (Deram DM 278), Robert Palmer vocals, Mike Hurst production. ‘A’-side by Bown-Bannister, flip by Catchpole. A pleasant sing-along tune ‘gypsy girl she came into my life, gypsy girl I wanted her to be my wife…’ 

December 1970 - “Pyramid” c/w “Crash Landing” (Island WIP 6091), ‘good vocals and a nice sequence’ says Melody Maker 

1970 – “Loosen Up” c/w “Wanted Man” (Island Série Parade 6014.043) France-only single 

June 1975 – “Moanin’” c/w “Time To Change” (CBS 3366) Alan Bown solo single 

October 1975 - “Rockford Files” c/w “I Don’t Know” (CBS 3721) Alan Bown solo single 


Autumn 1966 - ‘LONDON SWINGS: LIVE AT THE MARQUEE CLUB’ (Pye NPL 18156, reissued in 1993 by Sequel NEB CD 652, and 1994 by Castle CD) side one by Jimmy James And The Vagabonds, side two by the Alan Bown Set: ‘It’s Growing’, ‘Emergency 999’, ‘I Need You’, ‘Sunny’, ‘Headline News’, ‘Down In The Valley’, ‘The Boomerang’ 

September 1967 - ‘OUTWARD BOWN’ (Music Factory MF 12000), Produced by Mike Hurst. Side one: ‘Toyland’, ‘Magic Handkerchief’, ‘Little Lesley’, ‘All Along The Watchtower’ (Dylan), ‘Sally Green’, ‘Penny For Your Thoughts’. Side two: ‘Story Book’, ‘Technicolour Dream’, ‘Love Is A Beautiful Thing’, ‘Violin Shop’, ‘You’re Not In My Class’, ‘My Girl In The Month Of May’ (Dion) reissued February 2012 by Grapefruit with both mono and stereo editions of the LP plus bonus tracks ‘Toyland’ and ‘Story Book’ single edits, ‘We Can Help You’ and ‘Little Lesley’ 

1969 - ‘THE ALAN BOWN’ (Decca SML/DML 1049), Mike Hurst production, Robert Palmer vocals. Side one: ‘My Friend’ (only non-original, a Steve Miller ‘Sailor’ track by Boz Scaggs), ‘Strange Little Friend’ (Bown-Bannister), ‘Elope’ (Roden-Catchpole), ‘Perfect Day’ (Bown-Bannister), ‘All I Can’ (Catchpole), ‘Friends In St Louis’ (Bown-Bannister). Side two: ‘The Prisoner’ (group), ‘Kick Me Out’ (Anthony-Catchpole), ‘Tarnished’ (Bown-Bannister), ‘Memorial’ (Bown-Bannister) 

1969 - ‘THE ALAN BOWN’ (US Deram DES18032) The US edition of ‘The Alan Bown’ featuring ‘Jeremy’ Jess Roden vocals, except for ‘All I Can’ which has Tony and Vic, also sections of ‘The Prisoner’ with Jeff and Tony vocals. ‘Friends In St Louis’ is omitted while ‘My Friend’, ‘Tarnished’ and ‘Memorial’ are replaced with ‘Still As Stone’, ‘Children Of The Night’ and ‘Gypsy Girl’. Reissued in 2010 as Esoteric CD ECLEC2190, reintegrating tracks from both versions, plus bonus track ‘Wrong Idea’

1970 - ‘LISTEN’ (Island ILPS 9131), produced by Mel Collins. Side one: ‘Wanted Man’, ‘Crash Landing’, ‘Loosen Up’, ‘Pyramid’, ‘Forever’. Side two: ‘Curfew’, ‘Make Us All Believe’, ‘Make Up Your Mind’, ‘Get Myself Straight’, all tracks written within the group by Bown, Bannister, Palmer and Catchpole in various combinations, reissued in April 2010 as Esoteric CD 

August 1971 – ‘STRETCHING OUT’ (Island ILPS 9163), Hipgnosis cover-art, with ‘The Messenger’, ‘Find A Melody’, ‘Up Above My Hobby Horse’s Head’, ‘Turning Point’ (a 9-min blow with John Anthony’s tenor sax), ‘Build Me A Stage’ (‘pretty song with country overtones, and nice piano from Jeff Bannister’), ‘Stretching Out’ (‘Alan tries his hand at free trumpet in the title track, but while he has a certain facility, loses out on tone and control’). Chris Welch writes ‘from all their years of playing, they have obtained much relaxed professionalism’ ‘Melody Maker’. Reissued in April 2010 by Esoteric CD with bonus track ‘Thru The Night’, previously only on Island Records 1971 sampler ‘El Pea’ 


January 1985 - ‘KICK ME OUT’ (See for Miles SEECD 393), the Robert Palmer version of ‘The Alan Bown’, reissued in July 1987 as ‘ROBERT PALMER: THE EARLY YEARS’ (C-Five C5 501), with ‘My Friend’, ‘Strange Friend’, ‘Elope’, ‘Perfect Day’, ‘All I Can Do’, ‘Friends In St Louis’, ‘Still As Stone’, ‘The Prisoner’, ‘Kick Me Out’, ‘Children Of The Night’, ‘Gypsy Girl’, ‘Wrong Idea’ 

2002 - ‘EMERGENCY 999’ (Sequel NEMCD483) collects all the material featuring Jess Roden, with ‘Can’t Let Her Go’, ‘I’m The One’, ‘Baby Don’t Push Me’, ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’, ‘Headline News’, ‘Mr Pleasure’, ‘Emergency 999’, ‘Settle Down’, ‘Gonna Fix You Good’, ‘I Really Really Care’, ‘Jue De Massacre (The Killing Game)’, ‘Love Me’ (previously unissued), ‘Mr Job’ (previously unissued), ‘Gonna Fix You Good’ (demo version), ‘It’s Growing’ (live), ‘Emergency 999’ (live), ‘I Need You’ (live), ‘Sunny’ (live), ‘Headline News’ (live), ‘Down In The Valley’ (live), ‘The Boomerang’ (live) 

THE ALAN BOWN SET BEFORE AND BEYOND’ by Jeff Bannister and Alan Bown (2007, Banland Publishing, 240pp, ISBN-10: 0955151325, ISBN-13: 978-0955151323)