17 May 2022 – Vangelis (Greek film composer and keyboards-synthesizer for Aphrodite’s Child). Vangelis was born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou on March 29, 1943 in the Greek town of Agria. He was a self-taught musician who became a young piano prodigy. Then he moved to Paris and co-founded with Demis Roussos, the popular prog-rock group Aphrodite’s Child. After several global mega hits the band eventually split and Vangelis got a solo record deal with RCA Records, while still collaborating often with Roussos.
In 1981 he composed the score for Chariots of Fire. Its opening theme, with its uplifting inspirational swell and ornate arrangement, was released as a single and reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100. His efforts earned him a win for best original score at the Academy Awards.
The success led him to other film work. Notably, he composed the soundtrack for the original Blade Runner, as well as Carl Sagan’s PBS documentary series Cosmos. Outside of composing scores, Vangelis was prolific in his solo career, regularly releasing albums up until 2021’s Juno to Jupiter.
While he was most associated with the synthesizer, the instrument was also a source of frustration for him. “I’ve been using synthesizers for so many years, but they’ve never been designed properly. They create a lot of problems.” he told NPR in 2016. “The computers have completely different logic than the human logic.” So for his 2016 record Rosetta, dedicated to the space probe of the same name, he built his own synthesizer.
Vangelis had a lifelong interest in space which was reflected in his music — in its breadth and atmosphere. He believed that there was something inherent in humans to want to discover — whether that meant up in the sky or in a studio. For Vangelis, becoming a musician was never a conscious decision. “It’s very difficult not to make music,” Vangelis told NPR in 1977. “It’s as natural as I eat, as I make love. Music is the same.”
Vangelis, who gave the movie Chariots of Fire its signature synth-driven sound, died on the May 17, 2022 in a hospital in Paris, due to heart failure.. He was 79 years old.
February 19, 2022 – Gary Brooker founding lead singer of the late 1960’s musical sensation Procol Harum was born on May 29, 1945, in London’s Metropolitan Borough of Hackney. His father was a professional musician and Gary followed in his footsteps learning to play piano, cornet and trombone as a child. But his most awesome instrument over the years became his voice.
After high school, he went on to Southend Municipal College to study zoology and botany but dropped out to become a professional musician.In 1962 he founded the Paramounts with his guitarist friend Robin Trower. The band gained respect within the burgeoning 1960s British R&B scene, which yielded the Beatles, the Animals, the Spencer Davis Group, the Rolling Stones, and many others. The Rolling Stones, in particular, were Paramounts fans, giving them guest billing on several shows in the early 1960s.
The group found little success with their studio recordings outside of a 1964 cover of “Poison Ivy” that became a minor hit in England. The Paramounts split in 1966, and while Brooker originally planned to retire from performing to work as a songwriter, he met lyricist Keith Reid and forged such a tight working relationship that the pair started a new group: Procol Harum. Guided by an immense musicality of Brooker, Fisher, Trower and Reid their worldhit “A Whiter Shade of Pale” became one of the anthems of 1967’s Summer of Love. “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” was inspired by Brooker’s love of classical musicians like Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel.
“About that time, the Jacques Louissier Trio — which had a pianist, bass player and drummer — made an album called Play Bach,” Brooker told Songwriter Universe in 2020. “They were a jazz trio, and they’d start off with a piece of Bach, and they would improvise around it. Louissier had done a fabulous version of what was called ‘Air On a G String’ which was also used in a set of good adverts in Britain. And all those things came together one morning [on ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’] … a bit of Bach and ‘Air On a G String’ going through my head.”
Once he added in Reid’s lyrics, Brooker had a masterpiece on his hands that would reach Number One all over the world and turn Procol Harum in a major band almost overnight. Although the band never managed to land another hit of that magnitude, they maintained a large cult audience and worked steadily throughout the Sixties and Seventies, scoring occasional hits like “Conquistador” and “A Salty Dog.” In 1972, they cut the live album Procol Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra that helped bring the band back into the public eye.
While Procol Harum was often referred to as a progressive rock band, Brooker never felt comfortable with that label. “I’ve always rejected the idea of labeling groups or types of music,” he told Vintage Rock in 2019. “I don’t think Procol has ever fit into a particular pigeonhole, as we call them here, you know, in the filing cabinet. You don’t really know what to put them under. They come under ‘P’ — ‘Progressive?’ ‘Psychedelic?’ — and I say, ‘They come under ‘P’ and ‘P’ is for ‘Procol’.”
A Whiter Shade of Pale was issued as their debut record on 12 May 1967. and became one of the most commercially successful singles in history, having sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. In the years since, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” has become an enduring classic, with more than 1000 known cover versions by other artists, none of them ever matching Brooker’s version. With its Bach-derived instrumental melody, soulful vocals, and unusual lyrics, the music of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was composed by Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher, while the lyrics were written by Keith Reid.
Brooker’s melancholic vocals and emotive, eclectic piano playing were a key part of Procol’s musical mix for the entire course of the band’s career. In the early years Brooker, Hammond organist Matthew Fisher and Trower were the guiding musical forces behind the band, but after disparities in style became too much and Fisher and Trower left, Brooker was the clear leader until the band broke up in 1977. Brooker started a solo career and released the album No More Fear of Flying in 1979.
Gifted with a voice that stood out in a massive crowd, it is interesting to realize that Gary Brooker became essential a journeyman, who occasionally came “home” to his roots. After Procol Harum broke up, Brooker first launched his solo career but then began touring and recording with his longtime buddy Eric Clapton. His work can be heard on Clapton’s 1981 LP Another Ticket. Clapton fired the entire band in 1981, but he and Brooker remained good friends afterwards, and were for many years neighbours in the Surrey Hills. Brooker joined Clapton for several one-off benefit gigs over the years. Brooker sang lead vocal on the Alan Parsons Project song “Limelight”, on their 1985 album, Stereotomy. Brooker sang the lead vocal of the song “No News from the Western Frontier”, a single taken from the album Hi-Tec Heroes by the Dutch performer Ad Visser.
A new version of Procol Harum was assembled in 1991 that recorded and toured up until 2019, though they took a pause in 1997 and 1999 so Brooker could tour with Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band. He also toured as a member of Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings on three of their albums.
On 28 September 1996, as the Gary Brooker Ensemble, he organized a charity concert to raise funds for his local church, St Mary and All Saints, in Surrey. The resulting live CD of the concert, Within Our House, originally released on a fan club CD in a limited run of 1000 units, later became a collectable recording. His guests and supporting artists included Dave Bronze, Michael Bywater, Mark Brzezicki and Robbie McIntosh.
Also in 1996, Brooker appeared in the Alan Parker film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s Evita starring Madonna, Jonathan Pryce and Antonio Banderas. Playing the part of Juan Atilio Bramuglia, he sang the song “Rainbow Tour” with Peter Polycarpou and Antonio Banderas. Brooker said that his greatest single earning in his career was from his appearance in the film.
On 29 November 2002, he was among musicians and singers participating in the George Harrison tribute concert, Concert for George, at which he sang lead vocals on their version of “Old Brown Shoe”. Brooker contributed to Harrison’s albums All Things Must Pass, Somewhere in England and Gone Troppo.
In April 2005, as the Gary Brooker Ensemble, he played a sell-out charity concert at Guildford Cathedral in aid of the tsunami appeal, playing a mixture of Procol Harum and solo songs and arrangements of classical and spiritual songs. His guests and supporting artists included Andy Fairweather Low and Paul Jones (ex-Manfred Mann).
A new incarnation of Procol Harum, led by Brooker, continued touring the world, celebrating its 40th anniversary in July 2007 with two days of musical revels at St John’s, Smith Square in London.
On 28 October 2009, Brooker was presented with a BASCA in recognition of his unique contribution to music.
In May 2012, Procol Harum were forced to cancel the remainder of their dates in South Africa after Brooker fractured his skull following a fall in his hotel room in Cape Town. The fall came on Brooker’s 67th birthday. The band was part of the British Invasion Tour of South Africa along with the Moody Blues and 10cc. However, they continued touring until 2019, playing their final gig in Switzerland.
Shine on brightly, Gary, you made us quite insane, AND WE LOVED IT! RIP February 19, 2022
January 4, 2018 – Ray Thomas (the Moody Blues) was born on December 29, 1941 in Stourport-on-Severn, England, of Welsh descent.
In the 1960s Thomas joined the Birmingham Youth Choir then began singing with various Birmingham blues and soul groups including The Saints and Sinners and The Ramblers. Taking up the harmonica he started a band, El Riot and the Rebels, with bass guitarist John Lodge. After a couple of years their friend Mike Pinder joined as keyboardist. El Riot and the Rebels once opened for The Beatles in Tenbury Wells; Thomas and Pinder were later in a band called Krew Cats, formed in 1963, who played in Hamburg and other places in northern Germany.Thomas and Pinder then recruited guitarist Denny Laine, drummer Graeme Edge, and bassist Clint Warwick to form a new, blues-based band, The Moody Blues. Signed to Decca Records, their first album, The Magnificent Moodies, yielded a No. 1 UK hit (No. 10 in the US) with “Go Now”. Thomas sang lead vocals on George and Ira Gershwin’s “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from the musical Porgy and Bess.
When Warwick left the band (followed by Laine a few months later) he was briefly replaced by Rod Clark. Thomas then suggested his and Pinder’s old bandmate John Lodge as a permanent replacement and also recruited Justin Hayward to replace Laine. Hayward had actually given his demo tape to Eric Burden and the Animals, and Burden passed the tape on to the Moodies, as he had already hired a guitarist. With this line-up the band released seven successful albums between 1967 and 1972 and became known for their pioneering orchestral sound.
Although they initially tried to continue singing R&B covers and novelty tunes, they were confronted over this by an audience member, and with their finances deteriorating they made a conscious decision to focus only on their own original material.
Following the lead of Pinder, Hayward, and Lodge, Thomas also started writing songs. The first he contributed to the group’s repertoire were “Another Morning” and “Twilight Time” on the album Days of Future Passed. His flute had featured on three songs on the debut album—”Something You Got”, “I’ve Got a Dream”, and “Let Me Go”—as well as the single “From the Bottom of My Heart”, but it would become an integral part of the band’s music, even as Pinder started to use the Mellotron keyboard. Thomas has stated that a number of his compositions on the band’s earlier albums were made in a studio broom closet, with Thomas writing songs on a glockenspiel. Hayward has spoken of Thomas’s learning transcendental meditation in 1967, along with other members of the group.
Thomas and Pinder both acted as the band’s onstage emcees, as heard on the live album Caught Live + 5 and seen in the Live at the Isle of Wight Festival DVD. Thomas started to become a more prolific writer for the group, penning songs such as “Legend of a Mind”—an ode to LSD guru and friend of the band, Timothy Leary, and a popular live favorite—and “Dr. Livingstone, I Presume” for In Search of the Lost Chord, “Dear Diary” and “Lazy Day” for On the Threshold of a Dream as well as co-writing “Are You Sitting Comfortably?” with Hayward.
The Moody Blues formed their own record label Threshold Records, distributed by Decca in the UK and London in the US, and their first album on the Threshold imprint was To Our Children’s Children’s Children, a concept album about eternal life. Thomas wrote and sang “Floating” and “Eternity Road”.
When the band began to realize that their method of heavy overdubbing in the studio made most of the songs very difficult to reproduce in concert, they decided to use a more stripped-down sound on their next album A Question of Balance, to be able to play as many songs live as possible. It was their second UK No. 1 album. Thomas wrote and sang “And the Tide Rushes In”, reportedly written after having a fight with his wife, and was credited with co-writing the album’s final track “The Balance” with Edge, while Pinder recited the story.
The Moodies went back to their symphonic sound and heavy overdubbing with Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, their third UK No. 1 album, and Thomas wrote and sang “Our Guessing Game” and “Nice to Be Here”, also singing a co-lead vocal with Pinder, Hayward and Lodge on Edge’s “After You Came”. All five members wrote “Procession”.
The final album of the ‘core seven’ was Seventh Sojourn, their first album to reach No. 1 in the USA. By this time, Pinder had replaced his mellotron with the chamberlin, which produced orchestral sounds more realistically and easily than the mellotron. Thomas wrote and sang “For My Lady”.
Thomas released the albums From Mighty Oaks (1975) and Hopes Wishes and Dreams (1976) after the band temporarily broke up in 1974. During this period he earned his nickname ‘The Flute’. Within the band he was also known as ‘Tomo’ (pronounced tOm-O). The band reformed in 1977 for Octave, which was released in 1978. Thomas provided the songs “Under Moonshine” and “I’m Your Man”, and the group continued to release albums throughout the 1980s, with Thomas’s “Veteran Cosmic Rocker” and “Painted Smile” being featured on the album Long Distance Voyager. The former song has often been regarded as a theme song for the band itself as a whole and for Thomas in particular, and it again features his use of the harmonica. After contributing “Sorry” and “I Am” (both on the 1983 album The Present), Thomas temporarily stopped writing new songs for the band, for reasons unknown. He took featured lead vocal on Graeme Edge‘s song “Going Nowhere” (on The Present).
During the group’s synth-pop era, Thomas’s role in the recording studio began increasingly to diminish, partially due to the band’s synth-pop music being unsuitable for his flute and partially because he was also unwell during this period, meaning that his involvement in recording sessions was further limited. Despite contributing backing vocals on The Other Side of Life and Sur la Mer, he took no lead vocal role and it is unclear how much, if any, instrumentation he recorded for these two albums; but in any case, none of his instrumentation or vocals ended up on Sur la Mer. Although he is included in the childhood photos depicted on the album’s inner sleeve and is given an overall ‘group credit’, significantly (unlike the others) he is then not given an actual performing band credit at all. Patrick Moraz, who had replaced Pinder as the band’s keyboardist, objected to Thomas’s exclusion from the album and pushed for the band to return to the deeper sound that they had achieved with Pinder. It is possible that during the sessions for The Other Side of Life Thomas contributed tambourine, harmonica or saxophone, but it is unknown how many, if any, instrumental contributions of his ended up on the released version of the album, and at this point he was largely relegated to the role of a backup singer.
On The Moody Blues’ 1991 release Keys of the Kingdom, Thomas played a substantial role in the studio for the first time since 1983, writing “Celtic Sonant” and co-writing “Never Blame the Rainbows for the Rain” with Justin Hayward. He contributed his first ambient flute piece in eight years; however, his health declined and his last album with the group was Strange Times to which he contributed his final compositions for the group. He also provided a co-lead vocal with Hayward and Lodge on their song “Sooner or Later (Walking On Air)”.
Thomas permanently retired at the end of 2002. In a 2014 interview with Pollstar.com, drummer Graeme Edge stated that Thomas had retired due to illness. The Moody Blues – consisting only of Hayward, Lodge and Edge (Edge being the only remaining original member) plus four long-serving touring band members, including Gordon Marshall on percussion and Norda Mullen who took over Thomas’ flute parts – have released one studio album, December, since his departure from the band.
In July 2009 it became known that Thomas had written at least two of his songs– “Adam and I” and “My Little Lovely”– for his son and his grandson Robert, respectively. It was also revealed that he had married again, to his longtime girlfriend Lee Lightle, in a ceremony at the Church of the Holy Cross in Mwnt, Wales, on 9 July 2009.
Thomas released his two solo albums, remastered, in a boxset on 24 September 2010. The set includes, with the two albums, a remastered quad version of “From Mighty Oaks”, a new song “The Trouble With Memories”, a previously unseen promo video of “High Above My Head” and an interview conducted by fellow Moody Blues founder Mike Pinder. The boxset was released through Esoteric Recordings/Cherry Red Records.
In October 2014, Thomas posted this statement on his website:”After the tragic death of Alvin Stardust and the brave response to Prostate Awareness by his widow, Julie, in following up on what Alvin had intended to say about the disease, I have decided to help in some small way. I was diagnosed in September 2013 with prostate cancer. My cancer was in-operable but I have a fantastic doctor who immediately started me on a new treatment that has had 90% success rate. The cancer is being held in remission but I’ll be receiving this treatment for the rest of my life. I have four close friends who have all endured some kind of surgery or treatment for this cancer and all are doing well. While I don’t like to talk publicly about my health problems, after Alvin’s death, I decided it was time I spoke out. A cancer diagnosis can shake your world and your family’s but if caught in time it can be cured or held in remission. I urge all males to get tested NOW. Don’t put it off by thinking it won’t happen to me. It needs to be caught early. It’s only a blood test – a few minutes out your day to save yourself from this disease. Love and God Bless, Ray.”
Thomas died on 4 January 2018 of prostate cancer, at his home in Surrey, at the age of 76.
Although he most commonly played flute, Thomas was a multi-instrumentalist, who also played piccolo, oboe, harmonica, saxophone, and, on the album In Search of the Lost Chord, the French horn. He frequently played tambourine and also shook maracas during the group’s R&B phase. The 1972 video for “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)” features Thomas playing the baritone saxophone, although Mike Pinder says on his website that this was just for effect in the video and that Thomas did not play saxophone on the recording.
October 18, 2017 – Phil Miller (In Cahoots) was born on January 22, 1949 in Barnet, Hertfordshire, to Mavis (nee Dale), a librarian, and David Miller, a wartime lieutenant colonel in the Royal Marines and later head of commodities at the Stock Exchange. He was educated at Blackfriars boarding school, in Laxton, Northamptonshire, from where he occasionally truanted at night, hitch-hiking to London clubs to hear his musical heroes play, and returning unmissed in time for early-morning mass.
A self-taught guitarist, he formed his first band, Delivery, at 17, and played regularly upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s in London, backing visiting blues legends.
In 1971 he became a vital figure on the “Canterbury scene” when Robert Wyatt, who had just left Soft Machine, recruited Phil to join his new band, Matching Mole. The “scene”, noted for the frequent absence of the electric guitar as a lead instrument, boasted Phil as its undisputed exponent. Continue reading Phil Miller 10/2017
September 11, 2017 – Virgil Howe was born on September 23, 1975 in London, England, the second son to Yes founding member/ guitarist Steve Howe. He played on several of his father’s projects: he performed on keys, alongside his brother Dylan Howe on drums, for the Steve Howe solo albums The Grand Scheme of Things (1993) and Spectrum (2005). He was in Steve Howe’s Remedy band, who released an album Elements (2003), toured the UK and then released a live DVD. He wrote and performed on a piece on his father’s 2011 release Time. He also plays drums on 11 tracks of Steve Howe’s Anthology 2: Groups and Collaborations that were largely recorded in the 1980s. Under the name The Verge, Virgil Howe produced the Yes Remixes album, released 2003.
Nexus, due November 2017, is a joint album by Virgil & Steve Howe, due on InsideOut. Father Steve described the album: “Most of the credit goes to Virgil on this; it’s Virgil’s bed and melodies but I’ve come in to add a little bit more.” Continue reading Virgil Howe 9/2017
June 27, 2017 – Dave Rosser (Afghan Whigs) was born David Clark Rosser in St.Louis, Missouri on August 3, 1966. Raised in Gadsden, Alabama is where he first learned to play guitar and started what became a lifelong passion. After high school, David attended college and eventually moved to Memphis, where he worked in the family business for a short time. His calling as a career musician was apparent, and it led him to Auburn, Alabama, then finally to New Orleans in 1992.
He adopted New Orleans as his beloved city, and here his career took shape. He spent many years with the band Metal Rose, played throughout the French Quarter, and did studio work with many area musicians.Continue reading Dave Rosser 6/2017
June 2, 2017 – Aamir Zaki was born on April 8, 1968 in Saudi Arabia from Pakistani parents.
Music was part of his home education with both parents sharing classical, jazz, blues and rock with their children. Aamir became an instant admirer of Rhandy Rhoads, metal guitar virtuoso with Ozzy Osborne.
Playing guitar since the age of 14, he became known for his melodic phrasing, feel, and tone.
The first mainstream musician to recognise Zaki as a teenage prodigy was Alamgir, who got in touch with him to tour India, Dubai, England and the U.S.A. Continue reading Aamir Zaki 6/2017
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.Continue reading Clive Brooks 5/2017
January 31, 2017 – Deke Leonard (Man) was born Roger Leonard on 18 December 1944 in Llanelli, South Wales in the UK, the son of Winston, a dog breeder, and his wife, Ella. He attended Llanelli boys’ grammar school, where he formed his first band, Lucifer and the Corncrackers, with his cousin Meic Rees (vocals), Geoff Griffiths (drums) and Clive “Wes” Reynolds (bass), in 1962, taking his stage name from “Deke” Rivers, the character played by Elvis Presley in his 1957 movie Loving You. Leonard left school to work as a management trainee for a building contractor, where he quickly left to avoid getting fired. He decided to become a full-time musician or as he later confessed: “”serving a life sentence in the music business”.
The Corncrackers ran their own club, the “L” Club, featuring themselves and booking other Welsh musicians such as such as Tommy Scott (Tom Jones) and the Senators. He went on to play with other Welsh bands, the Jets, Smokeless Zone and the Dream., whilst also playing support to acts such as Johnny Kidd & The Pirates and The Hollies at a rival venue. When Rees left they continued as a trio; Keith Hodge then replaced Griffiths, but when Reynolds left to join the South Wales band The Jets, The Corncrackers broke up. Continue reading Deke Leonard 1/2017
January 31, 2017 – John Wetton (ASIA) was born on June 12, 1949 in Willington, Derbyshire, and grew up in the coastal city of Bournemouth, Dorset, England.
He first cut his musical teeth on church music at his family’s piano where he often played the bass parts to help his brother rehearse tunes for services….an experience that led to John’s love of the relationship between top line and bass melodies. It stayed a major feature of his music throughout his career. In his teens, John focused those melodies on the bass guitar and honed his skills by playing and singing with local bands. He also discovered a knack for songwriting with an early bandmate, Richard Palmer-James; a relationship that would continue to flourish through five decades.Continue reading John Wetton 1/2017
April 21, 2016 – Prince Rogers Nelson was born June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and actor, Prince became a superstar between 1978 and 1990 and beyond. He was renowned as an innovator and was widely known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, and wide vocal range. He was widely regarded as the pioneer of Minneapolis sound. His music integrates a wide variety of styles, including funk, rock, R&B, soul, hip hop, disco, psychedelia, jazz, and pop.
Prince developed an interest in music at an early age, writing his first song at age seven. After recording songs with his cousin’s band 94 East, 19-year-old Prince recorded several unsuccessful demo tapes before releasing his debut album For You in 1978, under the guidance of manager Owen Husney. His 1979 album Prince went platinum due to the success of the singles “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover”. Continue reading Prince 4/2016
April 1, 2015 – Dave Ball was born on March 30th 1950 in Birmingham, England. He was the youngest of three sons from a musical Birmingham family. “We were born show-offs and broke into a routine at the slightest excuse,” he said of his adolescence strumming a guitar alongside Pete and Denny. All three brothers played in various groups in Germany before teaming up with the drummer Cozy Powell to back Ace Kefford, formerly of The Move, and then forming Big Bertha in 1969.
Replacing Robin Trower in Procol Harum in 1970, he can be heard on the group’s live album, Procol Harum Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, but left late during the recordings for their 1973 album Grand Hotel, in Sept 1972. “I was getting bored,” he said in an interview. “There were only so many ideas I could put into that style.” Continue reading Dave Ball 4/2015
March 7, 2013 – Peter Banks (Yes) was born Peter Brockbanks on July 15th 1947 in Barnet, North London. He learned to play the guitar on an acoustic his dad bought for him and banjo as a sidekick.
Banks started his career in music with The Nighthawks in 1963 and played his first concert at the New Barnet Pop Festival before leaving that band to join The Devil’s Disciples in 1964. The band consisted of Banks on guitar, John Tite on vocals, Ray Alford on bass and Malcolm “Pinnie” Raye on drums. They recorded two songs on an acetate, Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On” (a hit for the Stones a little later) and Graham Gouldman’s (10CC) “For Your Love” which would be a hit record for The Yardbirds one year later. These two songs can be found on Banks’ archival album Can I Play You Something. Continue reading Peter Banks 3/2013
January 16, 2013 – Nic Potterwas born on 18 October 1951 in Swindon, England.
He left school at 15, originally to train in carpentry. At 16, he joined a late lineup of The Misunderstood however and recorded on their 1969 LP Golden Glass. At the same time as drummer Guy Evans, he joined Van Der Graaf Generator, when they were on a brief hiatus.
When Van der Graaf decided to reform after the release The Aerosol Grey Machine. When earlier bassist Keith Ellis decided to join Juicy Lucy, Evans recommended that Potter join as his replacement.
He first appeared on the album “The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other”, also playing some electric guitar on a few tracks in addition to his usual bass. He left the band in 1970 during the recording of their next album, ‘H to He, Who Am The Only One’, on which he recorded 3 tracks.
November 20, 2012 – Michael Dunford (Renaissance) was born in 1944 in Surrey, England.
The reclusive and soft-spoken composer, a mainstay in the world of progressive rock, was born, raised and educated in Surrey. His first job was selling clothing in a local shop followed by a stint as an airside driver at Heathrow Airport which enabled him to form a “skiffle” group which lead to his first rock band called Nashville Teens in the early 1960s. Nashville Teens reached #6 on U.K. singles charts with their version of Tobacco Road. On leaving them, he formed several other bands including The Pentad and The Plebes. One night he went to see the original band Renaissance perform locally and ended up joining them in the early 1970s. The original band members were Jim McCarty, Louis Cennamo, John Hawken, Keith Relf and Jane Relf.
Dunford entered the band during a period of transition. Though he wrote (and played guitar on) ‘Mr. Pine’ from 1971’s largely ignored ‘Illusion,’ his influence wasn’t truly felt until Renaissance’s third album, 1972’s ‘Prologue.’ This was the beginning of the band’s classic ’70s period, cementing their trademark brand of epic, symphonic prog. Dunford wrote two tracks on his own and co-wrote two others, though he didn’t actually contribute to the recording. Nonetheless, his writing gave the band focus: The elegant title-track (written by Dunford) is one of Renaissance’s most powerful instrumentals, featuring Haslam’s towering voice, John Tout’s jazzy, Latin-tinged piano, and Jon Camp’s furious bassline.
From that point forward, Dunford (along with writing partner, lyricist Betty Thatcher) was the band’s guiding creative force. He co-wrote all but one track on the band’s 1973 breakthrough, the orchestra-backed ‘Ashes Are Burning,’ making his studio debut and showcasing his signature acoustic guitar playing: subtle, misty, and slightly majestic.
And with each subsequent release, both Dunford and Renaissance grew more powerful. Their masterpiece was delivered in 1975 with ‘Scheherazade and Other Stories,’ their most cinematic and densely layered work, concluding with the 25-minute epic ‘Song of Scheherazade’ (which was also captured–in an arguably more thrilling context — on the 1976 live double-album ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’).
Though Renaissance were a British band, most of their success during this peak period came in the United States: ‘Scheherazade’ landed at No. 48 on the Billboard Album Charts, and their 1977 follow-up, ‘Novella,’ reached the same spot. The band’s biggest success, however, came in their home country with 1978’s ‘A Song for All Seasons,’ which peaked at No. 35 in the UK, thanks in large part to the success of that album’s hit single, ‘Northern Lights,’ which was built on Dunford’s shimmering strums and John Tout’s newly utilized synthesizers.
But these were also dark times. Punk and disco were diminishing the prog-rock’s relevance, leaving bands like Renaissance with a choice: either adapt or face extinction. As a result, Renaissance–under Camp’s guiding presence–went through a radical makeover in the 1980s. They released two albums, 1981’s ‘Camera Camera’ and 1983’s ‘Time-Line,’ both of which sought to blend the band’s artful rock with a more streamlined, synth-heavy approach leaning toward new-wave. After both albums tanked, the band’s remaining core trio (Dunford, Haslam, and Camp) dissolved into their own factions, with Dunford and Haslam seeking to continue the Renaissance name separately. Without each other, the magic wasn’t there.
But Dunford managed to reunite with Haslam, the magical voice behind his band’s best music, for 2001’s ‘Tuscany’ (also featuring Tout on keyboards, along with original drummer, Terence Sullivan), an album that recaptured some of the original Renaissance spirit.
Sadly, both Dunford and his old band are rarely mentioned in the same breath as their prog peers like Genesis, Yes, and King Crimson. Part of the reason is exposure: Even during their mid-to-late ’70s prime, Renaissance were never chart-toppers or stadium sell-outs (though they did manage one UK top-ten single, 1978’s ‘Northern Lights’). And they were never as technically flashy or boldly experimental as those bands: Throughout the group’s quietly excellent lifespan, the Renaissance catalogue is middle-of-the-road, but in a good way — consistently built on Annie Haslam’s soaring, operative, five-octave vocals, Jon Camp’s propulsive and melodic basslines, and Dunford’s tasteful guitar playing and arrangements. They were never prog’s trailblazers or sonic innovators — but they were certainly one of the most consistently great, album-to-album.
Dunford, the guitarist and chief composer behind Renaissance’s sweeping, symphonic progressive rock, passed away on November 20, 2012 after suffering an Instantaneous Cerebral Hemmorage at his Surrey, England home. He is survived not only by his wife, two sons, and sister — but also by some of the most hauntingly beautiful progressive rock albums ever recorded.
Before his death, Dunford was as musically active as he’d been in a decade: He’d just finished the first leg of a well-received tour (with Haslam and a new Renaissance line-up), with a newly recorded follow-up album, ‘Grandine il Vento,’ scheduled for a 2013 release. Ironically, what began as an incredibly exciting year for Renaissance turned into its final chapter. And considering the circumstances, ‘Vento’ should be the band’s swan song.
Though Dunford’s never been one of prog-rock’s most visible icons, he’s a crucial player in the genre’s rich history. He should be remembered that way.
March 10, 2010 – Micky Jones (Man) was born on June 7th 1946. In 1960, whilst still at school, Micky formed his first band The Rebels, before he formed his first professional band The Bystanders in 1962 which over the years developed into the legendary Welsh pychedelic, progressive rock, blues and country-rock band “Man”, officially formed in 1968 as a reincarnation of Welsh rock harmony group “The Bystanders from Merthyr Tydfil”.
They say that in order to understand the Welsh, you first must gain a sense of Wales. Unfortunately there are almost as many different colorful facets to the principality as there are people: in the south alone blue mountains rise from green valleys to hug the clouds, silver light drifts across granite castles, white cottages pepper the landscape and grey seas nibble at the coastline. What the tourist guides often fail to mention however is that this is also a landscape scarred black by the ravages of coal mining and tainted red by the rusting hulk of iron foundries. Where Ireland often gives the impression of having moved directly from the eighteenth century into the twenty-first without an industrial age in between, South Wales today still wears a curtain of steel. It’s an increasingly thin curtain in this post-industrial age, but the signs are all around nonetheless.
June 7, 2009 – Hugh Hopper (Soft Machine) was born on April 29, 1945 in Canterbury, England.
Hugh C. Hopper was perhaps the central figure of the whole famous Canterbury scene. In a career spanning forty years, he played with litterally everyone : Robert Wyatt, Daevid Allen, Richard Sinclair, Elton Dean, Mike Ratledge, Phil Miller, Dave Stewart, Pip Pyle…
February 19, 2009- Kelly Groucutt (ELO) was born September 8, 1945 in Coseley, West Midlands, England.
Groucutt began his musical career at 15 as Rikki Storm of Rikki Storm and the Falcons. He went on to sing with various outfits during the ’60s, picking up the guitar as he went along. Groucutt was also a member of a band called “Sight and Sound”, and later with a band called “Barefoot”.
September 15, 2008 – Rick Wright (Pink Floyd) was born on July 28, 1943 in Hatch End, London.
He taught himself to play guitar, trumpet and piano at age 12 after he was recuperating from breaking a leg. His mother helped and encouraged him to play the piano. He took private lessons in musical theory and composition at the Eric Gilder School of Music and became influenced by the traditional jazz revival, learning the trombone and saxophone as well as the piano. Uncertain about his future, he enrolled in 1962 at the Regent Street Polytechnic which was later incorporated into the University of Westminster. There he met fellow musicians Roger Waters and Nick Mason, and all three joined a band formed by classmate Clive Metcalf called Sigma 6.
May 11, 2008 – John Rutsey was born in Toronto, Canada on July 23, 1952.
In 1963, Rutsey met Lifeson, while attending St. Paschals School. Rutsey would play hockey with him on the street. Both interested in music, they decided to form a band. The two would be part of the band ‘The Projection’ with Bill Fitzgerald and “Doc” Cooper.
He became a founding member of the Canadian rock band Rush formed in 1968 with guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist Jeff Jones, who would soon be replaced by Geddy Lee.
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