May 5, 2017 – Clive Brooks was born on December 28, 1949 in Bow, East London where he was also raised.
Answering a Melody Maker ad in early 1968, Brooks joined Uriel, a blues-rock group in the style of Hendrix / Cream / blues / psychedelic group original formed by three City of London School pupils Dave Stewart (keyboards), Mont Campbell (bass and lead vocals) and Steve Hillage (guitar and vocals). The band re-grouped later under the name Arzachel and released one album in 1969, after they had already changed musical direction.
Uriel began gigging in 1968 and in the summer of that year decamped to the Isle of Wight to play a club residency. Events from this trip were later immortalized in Egg’s anthemic ‘A Visit To Newport Hospital’.
At the end of the Isle of Wight stay Steve Hillage left the group to pursue his academic studies, later rising to fame as a ’70s guitar hero. Uriel continued as an organ trio and fell in with a management company who forced a name change of ‘The Egg’ on the band. After signing with Decca in mid-1969 the band evolved into a hard-working live unit who won many fans on their travels round the UK. Under the musical leadership of Mont Campbell, short songs began to give way to long complex instrumentals influenced as much by Stravinsky as by the odd time signatures of Soft Machine. Psychedelia continued to loom large in Egg’s consciousness, and when the group were let loose in a recording studio for the first time they reveled in the new sonic possibilities it offered, creating the deranged soundscape ‘Boilk’ on their first eponymous LP.
While Stewart and Campbell, both classically trained, used a combination of chord symbols and full notation, Brooks didn’t read music and devised his own method of notation which Dave Stewart described as “long lists of numbers, some circled, with dots over the top, undecipherable to anyone but him.”
That tenacious grasp of Egg’s complexities added both definition and bite, providing not only a rhythmic anchor points but a propulsive commentary that ramped up the drama. Examples of his studied, disciplined approach are found all over Egg’s output but tracks such as The Song Of McGillicudie The Pusillanimous from their debut album, Long Piece No.3 from The Polite Force, and Germ Patrol and Enneagram from The Civil Surface are simply outstanding. His capacity to make abrupt time changes somehow flow and swing, coupled with a surgical precision has frequently drawn favorable comparisons to the likes of more high profile players such as Bill Bruford.
Egg and Decca parted company after the release of their second album The Polite Force, considered by many to be one of the finest prog albums ever recorded. Combining musical ingenuity, instrumental dexterity and super-tight performances, The Polite Force (produced by Neil Slaven) featured the much-loved ‘A Visit To Newport Hospital’ (whose opening fuzz organ riff is often mistaken for heavy metal guitar), the thoroughly mad ‘Contrasong’ and the intricacies of ‘Long Piece no. 3’, an extended instrumental piece in four movements. Accompanying these compositions is the nine-minute ‘Boilk II’, a multi-layered sound collage with psychedelic overtones.
Egg battled on for another couple of years before disbanding in 1972. Happily, a 1974 studio reunion enabled the trio to record several of Mont Campbell’s excellent compositions which otherwise would have been lost to posterity. Entitled The Civil Surface, this album was to be Egg’s last for 33 years.
After the demise of Egg, Brooks joined The Groundhogs. With Stravinsky as one of his favorite composers, there were some raised eyebrows when Brooks joined The Groundhogs. No denying however that Brooks’ work is exemplary on those severely underrated albums Hogwash (1972) and Solid (1974)
Following a riding accident in the United States in which Groundhog guitarist Tony McPhee broke his wrist and so cut short the Who Will Save the World? tour. The following album, Hogwash, became a more experimental affair, as McPhee was temporarily limited on the guitar. A mellotron which was used on the previous album and synthesizers were brought into the band’s music. Drummer Ken Pustlenik left and ex-Egg drummer Brooks was brought in to replace him.
In 1977, Brooks joined the UK band Liar recording two albums, Straight From the Hip and Set the World on Fire. A third album was recorded in Los Angeles but never released.
Brooks left by 1979 and became a regular drum technician for Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, working with the band through to 1994. On 13 June 1981, the opening night of the last leg of The Wall tour, Brooks filled in for drummer Willie Wilson who had been taken ill, making him effectively one of Pink Floyd’s personnel.
Brooks was re-united with Stewart in 2000 for the recording of a cover version of Soft Machine’s “As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still” eventually released on Jakko Jakszyk’s The Bruised Romantic Glee Club (2006).
Brooks also worked as a drum technician for bands such as Toto, Robbie Williams, Jeff Wayne’s “The War of the Worlds” 2007 tour and the Pink Floyd covers band, The Australian Pink Floyd Show. Between March 2008 and 2010 he worked as the touring backline drum tech for Leonard Cohen.
Brooks died on 5 May 2017 in Canterbury, Kent at the age of 67.
An overlooked classical rock trio that had both the talent and sound of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer without the bombast or success, Egg never made it on a major scale, as their music was too grandiose and challenging to garner a mainstream audience. It’s a shame, because Campbell had a powerful set of vocal cords, and the group WAS capable of composing shorter, finely crafted melodies.
An early single “Seven Is a Jolly Good Time” b/w “We Are All Princes” received modest airplay on the BBC’s venerable John Peel Show.
Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason who posted on social media, “With a heavy heart our Pink Floyd family say farewell to dear Clive Brooks, drummer for Egg and later drum technician extraordinaire, who sadly passed away.”
Brooks’ blend of force and subtlety won him many admirers but perhaps Dave Stewart summed up his ex-bandmate best noting in that Clive’s playing possessed “clarity, excitement and power.”