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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Face to Face









A while ago I started playing around with photo-manipulations of peoples’ faces.  I long ago noticed (like you probably have) that most peoples’ faces are not symmetrical.  One eye usually has a different expression to the other — and the mouth is usually slightly lopsided.

Without going into all the science of it (which would fill several books) there’s sound evidence to support the idea that one half of the face (usually the person’s own right side) represents the more conscious aspect of himself that he or she likes to present to the world — while the left side embodies the unconscious side and reveals the inner person. 

That’s why deceitful people are called ‘two-faced’ — you’d expect to see a difference in the faces of people who have very divergent outer and inner lives — or secret agendas at odds with what they say and do.  …Though you’d also expect a similar thing in people who have rich and vivid inner lives, like philosophers and artists.  


The face that Lance Armstrong  presents to the world is broader than the other side — more a football player than a cyclist.  It’s might be the wholesome face of the man who fronts a charity — or the poster for a man who wasn’t far away from achieving his ambitions of political office.

The lighting of the photograph has even subconsciously conspired to illuminate LA’s darker side.  We all now know what his secret agenda was for years, and what he was hiding.  But the dark side wasn’t the drug-taking fraud so much as the vindictive sociopath who ruined the lives of many of his former friends and colleagues, who told the truth about him.  It’s the man who set about destroying the life and business of Greg LeMond — the greatest American cyclist of all time.



This is a picture of the young Tony Blair before he became leader of Britain and took the country to war on the basis of a bogus dossier and a litany of lies.  Most of us here now know him (unaffectionately) as Tony B, Liar.  As a youth Tony was an actor — about as good an actor as Hitler was painter.  If either of them had been any good at their chosen career, the world would have been the better for it. 

The inner Blair is a bit of a cheeky chappie , saying ‘Like me, like me, please.’  The outer face is more mask-like, like an actor’s mask.  Tony’s acting techniques still served him in good stead though — as the saying goes: ‘The most important thing is sincerity … and once you can fake that you’ve cracked it’.










Francis Bacon

‘The man who does all those horrible paintings,’ as Margaret Thatcher called him.  Bacon’s paintings of half-human grotesques, burning popes and carcasses form a body of work that got progressively more inward-looking, bleaker and concerned with death.  In this later portrait of him on the left, it’s as if only one eye is looking out into the world.

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Visual Puns

Moving on from the last post which featured some notable look-alikes, what about these ‘visual puns’?

Who wouldn’t be amused by placing of the rivets on this ad seen on the side of a Bangkok city bus?

 And who’d fail to get a chill if they received a letter with this stamp and postmark?








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The Greatest Movie Never Made

The Attractions Story!

… featuring Nicholas Lyndhurst  as the Drummer, Gabriel Byrne as the Keyboard Player, and Frank Carson as the Singer.   I would demand to be played by Kiefer Sutherland — but most likely Donald would get the call.








Mike Miller asks who would play “the Manager”.  Step forward Harry H Corbett of Steptoe fame.  The Manager himself seems OK with the casting , but Harry H doesn’t look too sure.

Perhaps we should make the movie a musical; it offers abundant employment opportunities for other lookalikes.



A cameo role as The Boss for ex-Manchester United player Lou Macari.






By request … Danger Man himself, Patrick McGoohan, as country music producer Billy Sherrill.  A generous bit of casting, I know – on another day, it might have been Archie Bunker.





On reflection, Donald would make a much better Nick Lowe.

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Scratching Post

Yesterday my cat Lucy watched as I was topping up the oil under the bonnet (hood) of my car.  Of course, cats have a natural curiosity about them.  But she didn’t come any further than the garden gate as I’d previously impressed upon her (more than once) that were she to venture into the road, she’d almost certainly be flattened into a two-dimensional tabby wall-hanging by a runaway juggernaut carrying twenty-two tons of concrete blocks and a replacement propeller for the Queen Mary.

Yet it was she who was looking at me as if I were the dumb critter.  So I admitted that humans have often ignored the obvious and done many things that are quite dumb.

‘You mean like basing an entire civilization on the internal combustion engine?’ her expression intimated.  ‘All the while knowing full well that one day you’ll run out of the resources to maintain it? … And even though rare geniuses like Nicola Tesla and Wilhelm Reich come up with free-energy devices, rather than being welcomed with open arms, their work is destroyed and they’re declared insane?’

‘… Errm …’

Sparing me further embarrassment, she yawned, lay down and nodded off.

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