The Band That Prog Remembers (a little)

Following on from my earlier post The Band That Prog Forgot…

I just got an e-mail from Clouds organist, Billy Ritchie (r).  Apparently, on his website, Jon Anderson of Yes has finally acknowledged (a little) the vital role Clouds played in the inception of Prog Rock — and in the careers of the many who embraced it.

Clouds were very important in those early years.  I remember them performing Paul Simon’s America at a Marquee concert and at a gig in Wales.  As you know Yes eventually performed the song, I still do today in my solo concerts. Those far off days were very open and exciting. I did have dreams of all those bands touring together on a bus …great music, great times of innocence.  Jon Anderson (Yes)

As Billy himself adds: Only forty years too late! I suppose it’s safe to own up now? 

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How long did they think they could get away with it!

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For further information, go to the Profile Bass page.

The first thing about it that stood out was that the pickup is probably the loudest P-bass style pickup I’ve ever heard, and the low end response on it is astonishing! For sure, this bass can rumble the house! But it also has a clear ringing high end when the tone control is dialed up. Also notable is the sustain, hit a note and it’ll ring for nearly a minute … The neck is great! The fingerboard width is reminiscent of a ’60s P-bass, but the neck width is somewhat slimmer, making it really easy to play … The instrument is light and very comfortably balanced.
All in all it’s great instrument for the money, and it’s a world of fun to play. I’ve been using it nearly exclusively since I got it, and getting a lot of complements on it from other bass players. I have to say, out of the box I was a lot more pleased with it then with the last few new Fender basses I’ve bought. It certainly holds it’s own compared to other instruments of any price.  (Scott Reid)

The bass is a beautiful colour- that’s what strikes you first. Neck has a great satin finish and shallow profile which makes it very easy to play… a very distinct variant of the “P”. Sound is very much as one would expect from a split “P” configuration … a well-built, very playable, striking instrument. Comes with Elite Stadium 105s! … I thought I saw John McVie playing one on Sky News today – it looked like the headstock. Anyway, having played & owned the instrument for a few months, I think it is probably the most “Rod Mackay” bass I own & I have a lot of Fenders.  Tone, neck profile, colour, cost.  Good effort!   (Rod Mackay)

The bass arrived this morning. What a fantastic instrument. So lovely to play … Congratulations.  (Peter Gale)
The pickup output is considerably hotter than the standard “P” pickups. Really a great instrument!   (Mike Miller)
This bass is amazing and I make you responsible for making me total addicted to it.  (Carsten Holt)
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What’s the Score?

I’m away for a week to Wales, so here’s a collectors’ item to keep you going.  This is when the Quiver and Humble Pie boys met the Pink Floyd for a game of soccerball.  Willie Wilson, Quiver’s drummer on the left, me, and Roger Waters and Nick Mason.  Others there were Jimmy McCulloch and Steve Marriott.  My friend, the noted wit and bon viveur John Hughes, asked if it might not more accurately be designated as a game of ‘Spot the Muscle’.

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The Band That Prog Forgot

In 1967 it was unheard for an unknown band to be asked to headline at the Marquee club in London.  But the Marquee’s manager, John Gee, believed 1-2-3 to be the best band he’d ever seen — a Scottish trio comprising of Harry Hughes, drums; Ian Ellis, bass and Billy Ritchie, organ (l to r on photo).  Often John Gee had to come on stage and interrupt to calm the audience and tell them that if they wanted boring R&B music, they should go to the 100 Club, just up the road.

What the restless and occasionally violent audiences were witnessing was a virtuoso trio unleashing a new musical form in the front of their very eyes — a form of music which featured all the ingredients that would later identify progressive rock (or Prog, as it became known) — complex time signatures, and a deconstruction of the verse-chorus pop song format into dramatic movements lasting for up to ten or twenty minutes, with classical overtones and informed improvisation.

Despite the anarchic audiences, a second more-receptive group was following the band around the country — other musicians who realized they were hearing the sound of things to come and were watching a group ahead of its time. Many of these musicians, like David Bowie (who declared Billy Ritchie to be a genius), Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman would soon be famous and successful.  These guys weren’t so much taking notes as making photocopies. When 1-2-3 were derailed by the unfortunate timing and unexpected death of their manager Brian Epstein (yes, that Brian Epstein), the band faltered.  Chrysalis agency eventually took on the band, and renamed it Clouds.  But the copyists had already moved in.

My own band at the time was Village — an organ trio!  We too had a Marquee residency and were also signed to Chrysalis and so we often ran into1-2-3/Clouds on the circuit.  Our organist, Peter Bardens (left), had just disbanded his old outfit which had a Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green on drums and guitar, and a vocalist called Rod Stewart (don’t know what happen to them).

Village played an R&B/jazz set (I had a Fender 6-string bass) featuring material by the likes of Jimmy Smith and Miles Davis. The band stood squarely — almost symbolically — between the eras of R&B and Prog — because, after Village, Pete Bardens went on to form the prog outfit, Camel.  One of the bands that supported Village at the Marquee was Kippington Lodge, with its bass player, a pleasant chap called Nick Lowe.  It was many years later before our paths would merge — on the crest of another new wave.

(With thanks to Dave Dawson)

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Bass Player Seeks Gig

It’s been a while since I posted anything …  Mike Miller sent me this a while ago and it still raises a chuckle.  To be honest, I had to read it twice to decide whether or not it really is a spoof.

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New Interview

I’ve just done a new interview with Mr Harry Pye of The Rebel magazine if any of you would like to take a look.

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Ye Olde Gigge Liste

I was rummaging through some boxes in the loft when I came across some old gig lists for the first six months of my time as an Attraction.  Back in the day, before the office provided us with printed schedules, I used to write it all out meticulously … as you can see.

The rehearsal on July 3 was the first time the four of us got together and played as a unit at the same time in the same place.  It was also the day that I came up with both the name of the band (EC wanted ‘The Sticky Valentines’) and the name ‘Steve Nieve’.  Later in July was the rehearsal week in Cornwall where we came up with the arrangements for Chelsea and Lipstick Vogue … and did our first ever gig on July 14.

‘Nashville’ refers to a pub in west London not the city in Tennessee.









October was the famous Stiff Records Tour.  I recall that it was at the soundcheck at Loughborough University that we worked out Pump It Up.













The first US tour, was done in a Plymouth station wagon with no heater … and then into the studios on December 28 to record This Year’s Model.  Other than that, not a lot happened.




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