Class of 74…Wally vs Druid

If there is one thing that history has taught us its the fact that history itself is unreliable. In true Darwinian style the strong survive and get to pass on their own story, the weak simply disappear and their tale is lost to future generations.

And so the rock historian has the familiar tales that can be told all over again, the making of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours or Dylan going electric or the Beatles doing almost anything are tales we like to hear over and over again. These artists are so big they drag others into the black hole of their very existence. Greatness by association is better than no greatness at all. A kind word from someone influential can sustain a career through many press releases.

But without some kind of leverage on the cliff face of posterity it’s all too easy to get blown away and lost to time, until the internet reveal your fossilised remains.

And so the story of two bands.

In 1974 the Melody Maker decided it was time to reinvigorate the music scene by holding a talent contest. The paper was only reluctantly shaking off it’s dance band origins and had embraced proper musical heroes like Rick Wakeman as their rock blueprint. When punk hit The Melody Maker would be badly wrong footed but in 1974 it was more of an even playing field, this was a big influential paper, if the Melody Maker rated you it was a big leg up the fame ladder.

In second place was a band called Wally who hailed from the most unrock and roll town of Harrogate. Being allowed to develop away from the epicentre had given the band a change to develop their own voice although at times that sounded like the three voices of Crosby Stills and Nash. The band were an interesting blend of country, frog and folk made even more idiosyncratic by the presence of pedal steel. Unfortunately their name was associated with slang for somone who was a bit of an idiot (you wally !) or a strange phenomena at gigs when wag would call out the name in the hope of getting a reaction from others in the audience. With the rather slack work ethic of 70’s gigs shouting Wally in a darkened hall helped pass the time waiting for the headliner to arrive.

So Wally weren’t the best band the Melody Maker could find but they got lucky by attracting the interest of radio and TV presenter Bob Harris. Bob’s had his ups and downs, in the 80’s being associated with him wouldn’t have got you as far as the bargain bin. Today with his country show he’s got young bands queueing up for a quote along the lines of ‘possibly the best band I’ve heard this year’ that they can recycle for the next decade. Anyway 70’s Bob was pretty cool and despite lack of experience put himself forward as producer of their debut LP. Realising his limitations he was able to recruit no other than Rick Wakeman to help twiddle the knobs.

And as we know, because we’ve never seen them on the cover of MOJO, that didn’t really give them the break they needed. The band had a chance, they did some big tours and made a couple of records but they were neither interesting or persistent enough to make it, they got tired, split up and developed new lives, good luck to them.

But surely the winners would have been better, more interesting, more popular n’est pas?

Enter Druid (who ?)

Disappointingly Druid were not really druids or new age at all. They were firmly rooted in prog rock being a sort of watered down Yes. Like Wally they made two records, I seem to remember that Bob Harris produced one but it’s very difficult even in the internet age to find much about them. Even progarchives.com who can usually be guaranteed to tell you more than you ever need to know are tight lipped, although they will concede that ‘Fluid Druid’ ‘is a nice album’. And so the four boys from Berkhamsted failed to set the world alight.

I should be able to shed a bit more light on the elusive Druid because I actually saw them live as support to Curved air. Yet again a crucial bit of history has passed me by all I can remember was

Their drummer was quite basic for a prog band

They used the Mellotron a lot

I got a free badge from them for ‘Fluid Druid’

They weren’t as bad as I expected

Two bands, not much of a story, just a typical thefutureispast posting then.

As a footnote a couple of interesting/tragic stories

The guitarist with Wally never really recovered from his rock and roll experience, while the rest of the band went on to decent second careers Pete Cosker became too deeply involved with drugs. He was found dead of an overdose in Harrogate in 1990, to compound the tragedy he has passed out in from of an electric fire with horrific consequences.

Druid’s drummer Cedric Sharpley was also visited by the grim reaper and died of a heart attack. Before this he had made his mark playing for Gary Newman and Tubeway Army, it’s him playing on the influential ‘cars’, so perhaps I was right about him not really being a prog drummer.

Oh.. and the Keyboard player did the music for Teletubbies; but that’s enough weirdness.

And thanks to Bob and OGWT they are preserved in their glory, like a dinosaur’s footprint

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