After my ratings busting last two posts, overrated and underrated, this weekwe are looking at bands who never got big enough to be overrated or underrated, here are 5 bands that time has almost forgotten
As Jung said ‘there is gold in the dark’
I only discovered these guys myself a couple of years back. Mighty Baby are a transitional band, formed in the 60’s split in the 70’s and for a couple of years made great psychedelic rock. They had mutated out of the Action, a mod band who like so many others at the time wanted and needed to move with the times. They didn’t last long after recording an albumbut they had a legacy of sorts. lead guitarist Martin Stone wasprominent on the pub rock scene and, if my memory serves me well, was in the final line up of the 101ers with pre ClashJoe Strummer. ‘Bam’ King the rhythm guitarist was a member of Ace and Richard Thompson became a Sufi Muslim after several of the band had a religious conversion. Their music is pretty good, they would be underrated had they not been forgotten first.
Formed at Cambridge university and generally too clever to ever get near the big time. Often described as an avant rock group their left-wing leanings kept them well away from the usual chord structure of decadent western music. The early virgin label was the only one that would probably sign them but because of this the Cow at least got an audience beyond benefits and community arts festivals. In fact, a lot of their music is quite acceptable, at least to fans of Hatfield and the North (yay!) or mid period Soft Machine. Eventually they joined fellow label weirdos Slapp Happy and made the rather wonderful Desperate Straights which was more song orientated but they still confused the likes of me by releasing it as an LP which played at 45 rpm which for the uninitiated made the first couple of spins a challenging experience.
By the end they were virtually exiled from Britain but thrived in the political hotbed that was Europe, their legacy is beyond just music and one day a film will be made with Maxine Peake in the role of Slapp Happy’s Dagmar Krause and then they can be promoted to underrated.
String Driven Thing
During the winter of 78/79 as The Police (band) and Margaret Thatcher (person) were poised for domination I was in my student flatlet listening to String Driven Thing curtesy of my housemate Vince.
SDT were yet another remnant from the 60’s. Originally formed in Glasgow by husband wife duo Chris Adams and Pauline Adams they had come south and lined up with a rhythm section and, most significantly ‘classically trained’ violinist Graham Smith.
As might be anticipated there’s a wiff of the folky singer song writer with some of their songs but Chris Adams was capable of picking up an electric guitar and coming up with some darker prog riffs. Finding a home with selected misfits on the Charisma label SDT released their masterwork The Machine That Cried but, as bands do, struggled with the whole business and the Adam’s left.
Slightly bizarrely Charisma re built the band around GrahamSmith who physically and sonically was the most recognisable member. They weren’t as good as they lost the proggyelements to a pop sheen but did manage to have one of their songs covered by the Bay City Rollers!
After the inevitable split Smith joined label mates Van Der Graff
The Count Bishops
Around 1975 I bought a sampler record on the Chiswick label, mainly so I could have a recording by the aforementioned 101ers. Chiswick was an independent much in the same mode as Stiff and their first release was by the Count Bishops. The early Bishops were fronted by rhythm guitarist Zenon DeFleur(real name Zenon Hierowski but one of his bandmates saw him crashed out on the floor hence the name). the early line up was the best and DeFleur’s ‘Train Train’ is something of a minor classic. The band then recruited Australian singer Dave Tice who was in the ‘gruff vocalist’ mode and they became a little more mainstream.
They appeared on Top of the Pops with ‘I want candy’ and toured with Motorhead and were quite big fish in London Pub Rock circles. With a bit of determination, they might have made it through to the level of the latter-day Dr Feelgood or Nine Below Zero.
Unfortunately DeFleur was killed in a road accident and although they tried to carry on it was an uphill struggle not least of their problems being they were a multinational band, Australian, Polish, American Irish,English and members were prone to being deported.
At one pointin the early 70’s the sister of my mate Phil bought a sampler on the Transatlantic label and when she was not around we would play it to death as we only had 4-5 LPs between us. One track I loved was ‘Nature’s Way’ by Stray.
The band were almost a parody of the hard rocking local heroes. They weren’t quite heavy metal, it hadn’t really been invented yet, but they rocked hard and had long hair and quite often (at least according to a compilation album I purchased) had some decent songs some decent riffs and plenty of guitar solos.
Stray were pretty firmly a London based band, in fact at one time they were managed by Charlie Kray of Kray brothers infamy. A reunion decades later sold out the Borderline, but that was London, in the provinces they didn’t amount to a whole lot which is why they get a mention here.
If you’ve heard of all these bands, you are super special and deserve to make a comment
Who have I missed? as usual there are rules, British,70’s and they have to have made at least one album. Extra points if you can find anyone who isn’t on Wikipedia.