It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine

It's Psychedelic Baby is an independent music magazine. We are covering alternative, underground, non-commercial and non-mainstream artists in variety of shapes and genres. Exclusive interviews, reviews and articles. A place where musicians can express themselves. We serve an international readership.

Volta Sound - My All American Girl (2002) review

Volta Sound - My All American Girl (Orange Sky, 2002)

Volta Sound [with the name being taken from the Italian physicist, who in 1800 invented the voltaic pile, which was the first source of continuous electric current. The volt unit of electromotive force is named for him.  Thus Volta Sound, being an electric sound ...] is an etherial semi translucent band hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, who’s members are shared by other bands, coming together in 2000 to form a loose knit collective of kindred spirits, who’s influences can be traced to Spacemen 3, Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Dandy Warhols, certainly early Pink Floyd, and elements of The Beatles’ “Within You Without You,” along with Donovan’s “Sand & Foam.” 

The songs have a definite lo-fi sonic presentation, and at times some of the longer songs are so lo-fi and drawn out that I for one find myself moving to the next track before I fall asleep ... and to that end, I’d like to discuss their total body of work, rather than settling on one album, with My All American Girl being their most tight concise accessible and stringent album to date.  All and all you’ll be impressed and presented with something in the neighborhood of 125 songs, and of those, I’ve pared their collective body of work down to an elemental 28 that the neo-psychedelic world can not do without.  I don’t want you to think that I don’t dig all of their music, it’s just that I know what sits well with me, and when the band sets foot into the Hawkwind realm, I step out.  So, if you’re adventurous enough, you might select a grouping of songs that was completely filtered by my radar, and be jettisoned onto a spacerock journey from which you’re likely never to return.

Had I not been traveling this wayward psychedelic road for so many lightyears with the likes of Spacemen 3, Pink Floyd, and BJM being part of the lexicon of my musical life, I think I might be much more impressed with the band ... though as I said, the 28 songs I’ve chosen to keep from their collection, are songs I don’t think I could do without.  

Those being: Zen Is Everywhere, You're Nobody's Girlfriend, My All American Girl, Sunshine, No Control, Deep, Right Up To You, We Have Voices, Everything's Alright, (My All American) Girl, There Is No Question, Take Yer Sweet Time, Girls & Tambourines, Goldilocks, Gracious Guru, Good Lookin' Out, Ya'll, Familiarity, Get In Yr Noose, Let The Robots In, Go Straight Ahead, When It Works, Meditation Station, Dog, Ten Minutes, We'll Be Fine, Everything's Alright, Endorphin Deliriums, and #1.

Review made by Jenell Kesler/2015
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Greek Theatre - Lost Out At Sea (2015) review

Greek Theatre 'Lost Out At Sea' (Sugarbush Records, 2015)

This is one of these albums that's been hanging around a few months now and in the process getting a lot of rave notices from hither and thon in the process and it's relatively easy to see why too, as given the chance and the exposure, it thoroughly gets under your skin.
Greek Theatre hail from Sweden and here take us on a questing voyage of discovery where we find meandering vestiges of psychedelic country type songs - the kind found on vintage classics such as "Notorious Byrd Brothers", "The New Tweedy Brothers" and one or two others of a similar ilk, that appear to melt icy meadows down into free-flowing rivers of gold, and into flowering fields of sun-washed purple. It's that kind of feeling! The various sound components can also spread their tentacles outwards and beyond into hushed murmurs that often recall some of the languid musings of 'Summer '68'-like Floydness. With such titles as 'Frozen Highway', 'Was It A Dream' and 'Mountains Meet Ocean Sand' the group seamlessly glides upon gossamer-delicate lyrical tapestries which shimmer and sparkle with each passing breath, everything flourishing in a fluid, diamond sharp wash of post-everything newness. And as they ride their dream-craft through the endless ebb and flow of constantly flowing waters they - as the musician navigators - appear to be in complete control. It is luxuriously dreamy, and even a little somnambulistic too at times yet the sonic splendour of such reverie is never complacent; the breezy buzz of clarinet and flute, alongside comforting undulations of pedal steel are aurally comforting, but lest we get too relaxed, are occasionally pierced and sometimes shattered by shards of invidious, brittle fuzztone. 
The Greek Theatre guys are clearly in the zone throughout, led by Sven Froberg and Fredrik Persson, with an able host of cohorts ... including Ken Stringfellow (the Posies) who assists on keyboards during the excellent 'Frozen Highway'. With two or three selections at least, more even, having that natural ability to sound something more than they are - by this I mean that they can really lift off and in doing so completely take your breath away - "Lost Out At Sea" is quite the modern revelatory spin, a sweet platter, expertly created and generously packed with softly glowing psyched-out reverberations.

Review made by Lenny Helsing/2015
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Music Emporium - An interview with William Cosby

Welcome!  Before we begin, I know you would like to make some introductory comments about both yourself and Music Emporium.

Thanks for the opportunity to share some of my memories about Music Emporium.  Music Emporium has always been somewhat of an enigma to me, and this may well be one of my last opportunities to tell some things about Music Emporium that have remained in obscurity.  

However, it is difficult to talk about Music Emporium without first putting it in context with other major parts of my life.  My musical roots were as a concert accordionist.  Then there was a 23-year tenure at the United States Military Academy, West Point, where I was the music director and conductor of the West Point Glee Club.  In contrast, I finished my work career with the Department of Defense and US Department of Transportation in the field of traffic safety with a specialty in motorcycles.  Ironically, some urban legend about Music Emporium includes stories of my death in a motorcycle crash.  I have also composed throughout my career. 

I told my story with the accordion with, “I Brought My Accordion to the Party, but No One Asked Me to Play” and “Saved Rounds”.  I am working on a series of video interviews that cover my time at West Point.  But from my standpoint, the story of Music Emporium remains untold.  

There was nothing typical about Music Emporium.  Three of the members were classically trained with no background in rock, but we all developed an irrepressible passion for Los Angeles underground rock.  For me, that rock music influenced everything about every other type of music I was involved with.  

Personally, the music gave more to me than I was ever able to give to the music.  

Promo photo of Bill (William) Cosby.

So where do you want to start with Music Emporium?

Maybe we should start with a flashback.

It was about 2000.  I wandering about on Ebay when I first discovered there were bootleg copies of the album for sale and the listings told of the absurd amounts of money original copies would bring.  What gives?  Without knowing who I was, I asked the Ebay seller if the attraction was the rarity of the album or the music.  He replied it was the music.  That was a big surprise. 

Why would you be surprised? 

From the time the group that ultimately became Music Emporium began, it was doomed.  It would be hard to imagine a more perfect storm of situations that would grind the band into absolute oblivion.  

Those are pretty strong observations, where do they come from?

First was the recording.  The demo that ultimately became the album was completed in a few hours.  Dave Padwin, our guitarist, had only been with the group a very short time when we started recording.  Dave was a monster player, one of the finest musicians I have ever known.  He changed everything about the band, but that transition was only starting when we recorded that demo.  Dave provided the synergy that we so desperately needed.  The album is the only remaining tangible representation of Music Emporium.  And that picture of the band does not do justice to Dave.

The production of the album was the second disaster, and in this regard, there are parallels to countless aspiring rock bands.  

It started off well enough as Music Emporium was ‘touched’ by some of the industry’s top talent.  It started with Armin Steiner, who recorded my first accordion album.  Armin was both a brilliant violinist and recording engineer.  He saw my interest in recording and invited me to various sessions, often patiently explaining things like microphone placement, phasing distortion, and mixing.  Do a google search sometime on Armin.  

For the second accordion album, Armin was too overwhelmed with work and he introduced me to Alan Emig.  Alan had been a recording engineer at Capitol Records in the 1950’s and later become the head of West Coast recording operations for Columbia.  When I met Alan, he was working at Kent Records.  Alan was one of the most talented people I have ever met, though he was jaded from a lot years in the business.  He shared a lot with me.  During the time I knew Alan he went on to design Elektra’s studios in Hollywood, Hawaii, and New York.  

Bill Lazerus was working with Alan at Kent when I met him but soon relocated to Sunset Sound Recorders as a staff engineer.  It was Bill who recorded the demo and later worked his magic on the album.  Even by today’s standards I am still impressed at how well he recorded the group.  It was the early days of 8-track and we were in the new ‘front’ studio.  He was also an accomplished musician and enjoyed a long and successful career as a recording engineer.  We had a great fun working with him on the demo.  There are some real benefits having the same person ‘produce’ and ‘mix’.  In this regard, there couldn’t have been a better choice. 

So now you have a demo – what next?
So we now have our demo, so what to do with it?  I played the rough mixes for Alan and he was not impressed. There were too many things that needed to be fixed.  Nonetheless, he took a copy to Paul Rothchild at Elektra.  Paul told Alan they would buy it, but they wouldn’t do anything with it.  It would be a matter of culling out the competition.

Bill Lazerus was nervously sitting on a $2,000 bill for recording time with Sunset Sound when Jack Ames came into the picture. As Bill explained to us, Jack was the co-founder of Liberty Records where he had enjoyed great success.  He knew the record business.  But for now, he was a man recently ousted from his record company.  It might be better to go with someone who would exclusively work for us rather than a larger label where we would most likely be lost in the flood.  Jack was personable and well-received by the members of the group.  But then came the question of finance – and in that regard, I don’t think there was much depth, or at a minimum, much control!

Jack lived with his new wife, Lola, in a home on La Cienega, a few houses down from the Sunset Strip.  From the start, Lola made no pretense about liking the album.  She hated it and would anxiously tell anyone or everyone her views.  Lola considered herself an expert on all things rock, though I doubt her background was more than osmosis from being around Jack.  But she was either the person with the money, or at a minimum she was the person controlling the money, so the squeeze was on.

Jack suggested I ask my father if he would buy into the project, offering his personal Ampex 351-2 Professional Recording as an incentive.  From day one, my father hated the group and rock music in general.  That was not going to happen.  But somehow Jack finally came up enough money to finish the demo and move forward.

Some have said the jacket was ahead of its time.  Your thoughts?

I called on Stephen Rustad and Michael Higgins Hall, two friends from UCLA who came up with the cover design and the concept of the die-cut ‘uni-pack’ album.  Some people felt the album was the best and most well-thought-out part of the project.  I doubt that Stephen and Michael were ever paid.  The insert picture was taken atop a mountain in Palos Verdes and the rocking chair came from my grandparent’s back yard.  I still remember that day well.  

But there were two critical events that preceded the album jacket.  The first was the name of the group.  

Jack did not like the name Cage, and whereas Jack had a background in pop records, he didn’t know much about underground LA Rock.  The only time I remember him listening to us play ‘live’ he looked very uncomfortable.  Jack felt ‘Music Emporium’ would translate to a wider potential audience.  It was ‘softer’ than Cage.  In our exuberance to somehow get started, we made this concession.  

Second was my name.  He said there could be problems with the Musician’s Union using Bill Cosby given possible confusion with comedian.  We considered a lot of names. The name I wanted to use was John St. Vrain, after a lost relative on my mother’s side.  But it became W. Casey Cosby.  Somehow I thought I should be driving a train and wearing some corny blue and white engineer’s cap.  To this date I still hate ‘cutsie’.

So Music Emporium was about to be launched?

We signed contracts with great aplomb, no doubt left-over templates from Liberty Records.  The music company was to be Maxim, though I have no idea where that came from.  There was great discussion on the benefits of ASCAP vs. BMI.  Jack never followed through on anything in regard the publishing, and I retained all the rights.

And once completed, what about the promotion of the album?

As far as promotion and distribution, I don’t think anything of substance ever happened.  As for air play, promos of the 45 were produced, but I only remember hearing about the album being played one time.  We were done before we even started.  And in fairness to Jack, he didn’t know what our future might be.  Ironically, during my years at West Point I actually had more time to pursue musical quests and had access to countless new musical resources.

So did Lola ever come around in her views about the group?

No.  In fact, when I completed Army basic training 8 weeks after Music Emporium had been disbanded, Carolyn and I drove up to La Cienega to visit Jack.  He wasn’t there, but Lola greeted us.  She again repeated her dislike of both the album and the group.  She said that in desperation, to get rid of the albums cluttering up her garage, she had insisted they be given away to the prisoners where her son had been incarcerated.  I have no idea if this was true.  I never saw Jack again and it was many years later until I again spoke with Lola.

Bill (William) Army ID Photo.

I understand you also had an interesting experience with a manager.

If there are two things a young aspiring group thinks they need, one would be a recording contract, and the other would be a manager.  We knew there wasn’t much happening on the Jack Ames front, so we looked for a manager.

I don’t remember the name of the agency, but I do remember Vince.  Let me call him Vince D.  He was enthusiastic.  He could solve all our problems.  He could get us exposure.  He had an impressive office in a suite on Santa Monica Boulevard.  

The first thing he wanted to do was break the contract with Sentinel.  The next was selling some of our excess equipment to one of the other bands he had signed.  Of course they would need to pay installments, but he would co-sign the note.

Then Vince disappeared.  The management of the company didn’t want any association with anything he had done and unceremoniously handed us back our contracts.  He was nowhere to be found, as was our equipment. For the next year my father followed the band to their various performances and finally collected the money.  

But there was one story about Vince D that has never failed to amuse me.  Vince was another person that I was convinced had never actually heard a rock band.  He was convinced we were too loud, and after we had started one of our performances, he came on stage and started adjusting volume levels on the amplifiers. Not a good idea.  Dave was first in line and I don’t think he fully understood the potential consequence of getting smacked in the head with the business end of a Les Paul.  What an idiot.

So with everything going on and the move to the East Coast, Music Emporium became a fading memory.  

So when did Music Emporium remerge in your life??

Through the years I heard rumors that the album had a cult following, and on a couple occasions young kids would show up at my home in Cornwall on Hudson, NY looking for copies.  I had a few and had literally given them away.  I had no idea of the value.

But as I mentioned at the start of the interview, I came across a bootleg copy of the album on Ebay and decided to bid on it.  When the bids went far above what I was willing to pay, I became even more curious.  Without identifying myself, I started asking the seller questions.  He told me the urban legend of Music Emporium.  How Cosby had been killed in a motorcycle crash, and how valuable original copies of the record were.  He then mentioned that a company in upstate New York was planning a reissue of the album.  

I got the name, Sundazed from him and sent them an Email, saying that I did not know the status of ownership for the album, but I considered myself owner of the musical rights.

And that is when you came in contact with Sundazed?

Bob Irwin from Sundazed contacted me immediately, saying they had located and purchased the rights to the original masters which had been a five-year process.  They were planning a reissue.  He said they had been trying to find me for years, and it was quite ironic that I lived only an hour or so from their headquarters in Coxsackie.  

But back to Lola.

The internet has reduced the size of the world to a computer screen, and surprisingly I found that Lola now lived close to Roanoke, Virginia.  By now I was living in Norfolk.  She did not know of my conversations with Sundazed when I talked with her.  The first thing out of her mouth was how much she had always disliked the group, but was quick to move on to possible ways to for financial gain for both her son and me. I don’t know how her son fit into all this.  With no particular fondness for Lola and her expressed 40-year dislike of the band, I reaffirmed with Bob that he had fully secured his new ownership to the album.  Thanks to the professionalism and integrity of Sundazed, Lola was once and for all completely out of the picture.  That particular albatross had finally been removed from the band’s neck.

And what about the rights to the music?

It was somewhat of a mess, but Sundazed guided me in sorting it out.  Every part of it.  

And what are your thoughts on their ‘first’ authorized reissue?

Had I made a list of everything I could have imagined in a reissue, it would have been short of the final product.  Whatever future Music Emporium might have, it is a direct result of Sundazed’s efforts.  I am sure much of Bob’s success in re-mastering and oversight of a final production are largely due to his competence as a musician.  He translated the original sound from the master tapes over to the CD, a process that is not always successful.  He also re-mastered the vinyl.  I even like what he did with the bonus tracks.  I must say that sometimes I enjoy hearing the songs without the vocals.

Why would you say that?

Because in my opinion, the vocals are the single weakest part of Music Emporium.  But before we get into that, please allow me to backtrack a bit, back to my progression into rock.

I started playing music when I was 7 years old.  In the 1950’s the accordion was ‘the’ instrument to play. I continued with accordion, venturing into a split between classical, there actually is such a thing on accordion, and jazz.  UCLA obviously did not have an accordion major but I was totally accepted there.  In my junior year I was one of the original winners of the Frank Sinatra Musical Performance Awards Competition – the only accordionist ever to participate in the competition.  We were presented by Frank Sinatra in concert and had many doors opened to studio gigs in Los Angeles.
Up until my third year of college I had been quite involved with jazz, even accumulating national recognition.  But for me there was something missing, and to be honest, I really wasn’t that good at it.  So it wasn’t until my third year in college that I ever even listened to rock music.  But now I was ready and rock was one of the greatest discoveries of my life and influenced everything about music.  There was a passion, a raw edge, sexuality, honesty, and everything else, especially in what I have always called underground Los Angeles rock.  I wanted to be part of it, experience it.  Then I wanted to see how I could put all that passion and energy into everything I did in music.  It opened up something inside.  Music now had a new meaning, a new purpose.

Bill (William) at Sinatra Competition Photo Session.

The Los Angeles rock scene in the 1960’s, I am envious.

In the 1960s, Los Angeles was a great place to ‘discover’ rock.  On any given night you could hear a wide variety of artists.  The first groups I ever heard were Strawberry Alarm Clock and Merry-go-Round in a concert on the top level of Parking Structures 8 at UCLA.  Then there were the Doors, Iron Butterfly, Canned Heat, Sly, Illinois Speed Press, CTA, Bob Seger, Jimi, Janis Joplin, and Rhinoceros.  It was in clubs like the Kaleidoscope, Cheetah, or Pasadena Civic.  You could go to the Troubadour, the Whiskey, the Bear in Huntington Beach, and later the Bank in Torrance.  There are really just too many to remember.  Often the price of admission was $3.50 on a week night with three different bands.    

So how did you start actually playing?

I first started ‘jamming’ with my life-long friend, Dora Wahl.  Then I was an instrumental, accordion, soloist with the UCLA Men’s Glee Club.  But as we started doing more high school assemblies, I hooked up with Thom Wade and Steve Rustad, two fellow glee-clubbers, doing original music as a trio.  I wrote the music and the accordion was replaced with my original combo organ.  Thom was the lyricist, sang, and played a Rickenbacker 12-string.  Many of the songs later sung by Carolyn were sung by Thom who had a great tenor range, truly the voice of an angel in classic St Olaf tradition.  
We called ourselves Gentle Thursday and even printed some green business cards.  Thom introduced me to Love, which has always remained one of my all-time favorite groups.  We tried to never miss one of their performances.  There was a magic in everything about them, something I still find difficult to describe.  It was a level of honesty that defined 1960s rock music, and perhaps it was this honesty that best defined Love to me.  I felt an enormous loss when I heard of Arthur Lee’s passing, a great sadness. I would say that if someone really wanted to understand the true genesis of Music Emporium they should talk with Thom and listen to Love.
Then things started evolving.  I went through nearly 20 different players until finally arriving at the final musicians who comprised Music Emporium.  Thom bowed out as he felt he couldn’t keep up with the group as the guitar player.  Gentle Thursday evolved into ‘Cage’, and in hindsight I wish we would have kept that name as it better described the band.  Music Emporium was more of a cutsie bullshit moniker added by Jack Ames who thought ‘Cage’ was too rough.  I was also pushed into using W. Casey Cosby vs. William Cosby so as not to conflict with the comedian.   
With the arrival of Dora Wahl and Carolyn Lee, three of the group’s four members were classically trained.  In addition to being a brilliant drummer, Dora’s training went beyond a trap drum set.  She is also one of the finest people I have ever known.  We literally grew up one street apart.  Carolyn was an equally impressive musician, being equally proficient on double bass, fretted and non-fretted bass guitar, piano and vocal. Carolyn is still active teaching piano and playing in a symphony orchestra. Dora, Carolyn and I discovered rock together.  Dave Padwin was the only real rocker, and provided the needed synergy for the group.  

Gentle Thursday.

With three classically trained musicians, how did you meet Dave?

I met Dave in the Guitar Center’s original store in Hollywood where he was working as a salesman.  It was a quiet week-day morning and he was sitting there playing a guitar.  He had recently arrived from Chicago and I immediately invited him to jam with us.  
Music Emporium worked as a group.  We could discuss a song before a performance and walk on stage and perform it without rehearsal.  With few exceptions, each performance was different.  When we did the occasional ‘cover’ it took on an entirely new character.  

And back to your comment on the vocals, what’s the story there?

It ended up being Carolyn and me – which I feel is an important part of this topic.  

I am not, and have never pretended to be a vocalist.  As I mentioned, the original group, Gentle Thursday, evolved from performances of the UCLA Men’s Glee Club.  The original songs which migrated to Cage and finally to Music Emporium, Gentle Thursday, Velvet Sunsets, Winds Have Changed, and Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo were sung by Thom. Thom had magnetism on stage.  It wouldn’t have mattered what he did, the high school girls adored him.  

After Thom we had a short tenure with Steve Chase as lead singer.  Steve was another student from UCLA. Steve had a different kind of energy and a lot of talent, but.  something wasn’t right and it ultimately created friction that would have caused everything to self-destruct.  The day before an important performance, I kicked Steve out of the band.  What remained was a group of equals on every level, and we all respected and genuinely cared for each other.  That made everything fall into place.

However, I was now the primary lead singer.  Whereas Thom and Steve had enormous charisma on stage, I didn’t.  People wouldn’t come near me.  Friends have often told me that before they really knew me they always felt that I was someone that they should not come near.  There was a barrier, and they felt it best not to cross it.  

But understanding all this helped me realize some critical things about being a musician.  You can’t be an artist without opening up at various levels.  Whether you intend to do so or not, it will happen.  And should you actually achieve some success at performance while hiding whatever keeps you from sharing yourself, you will come off as dishonest.  This is something and audience, especially a young rock audience will immediately recognize.  

I knew I was a poor vocalist.  Even if I were to open up, I was too aware of what was there.  I knew my shortcomings.  When I play or when I conduct I have confidence in what I want to do musically.  I am not afraid to share my vision with an ensemble, be it an instrumental group or vocal chorus.  Rock let me release the passion inside myself,  the sexuality, power, control, vulnerability.  All that can come forward when I conduct, be it Mozart of Wagner, and I am not afraid to share it.  But not when I sing.

And Carolyn?

Carolyn had a beautifully trained voice, but not what would be appropriate for a uber hard-rock group with a message such as that demanded by Music Emporium.  I always felt it was a deceit by both of us, a fraud to both the genre and the group.   The things required to be an extraordinary musician were there, but not as rock vocalists.

So you say vocals are part of it – what about the other part?

The songs themselves.  Though I have composed quite a bit, I have never been a good ‘song’ writer.  I have friends who can turn out wonderful songs one-after-the-other.  

The writing for Music Emporium, at least from my part, was more about form and structure.  Whereas there are genres of music that can thrive with a foundation in form, like J.S. Bach, I don’t think rock is one of them, even with people like Frank Zappa.

But bottom line, Music Emporium was missing a vocalist.  We were also theatrical, but unfortunately we were theatrical without actors.

Maybe that is why I am still sometimes curious on why the group has achieved posthumous success.  But there have been those who have remained excited about the group.

So in the day, where did you play?  Did you enjoy success?

Unfortunately, about the time Music Emporium began to musically ‘evolve’ my date with the US Army was approaching, so the total number of performances was limited.  We were disastrous in clubs where bands would be expected to play top 40.  There were several instances where we were told to ‘get the %^$# out’, leave before we had finished our first set.  
The exceptions were the clubs that encouraged original music.  In those venues we sometimes fared much better.  One club in particular was the Odyssey on Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach.  The Odyssey had been a supermarket that was converted to a rock club, complete with the biology-slide lights, nothing to sit on but the floor, and no alcohol.  California always had a 21-year-old liquor law.  Serving liquor would have eliminated a large percentage of the audience.  We became somewhat of a local draw and even developed a following.  The promoters cited the Odyssey as a place for kids to go rather than hang out on the streets.  Unfortunately some of the city elders did not see it in the same light and eventually forced it to close.  Some of the regulars at the Odyssey were Smokestack Lightning, Weeds Own, and Straight Jacket.
We played at the Bank in Torrance, a huge industrial building turned rock club.  Two groups in particular that I remember were Fair be Fall and Black Pearl.  The management at the Bank was a strange form of passive-aggressive band promotion and we didn’t fit into their agenda.
One of my favorite performances was at a private home that at one time housed the mayor of Hollywood.  It was on a hill that overlooked the Hollywood Bowl and you accessed it by taking an elevator that ascended into a medieval-spiral-tower and then walked across a catwalk and finally down a path to the house.  Two very influential people with Music Emporium that are seldom mentioned are Mike Higgins Hall and Steven Rustad, and somehow they were part of the group from one of UCLA’s ‘media’ schools that had rented this house for the semester.  It was a huge party, the kind depicted in 1960’s movies.  That night it was Die Hard Trippers, down from San Francisco, Music Emporium and Iron Butterfly.  Finding the elevator was hard, finding parking in the hills of Hollywood was even harder, so the first three hours were a particularly memorable jam of those who found it.        

Fort Ord Danny Raspante (room mate) and Bill (William).

And what about the actual music?

I first wrote rock music with Thom Wade.  The first song was Gentle Thursday.  We were touring Hawaii and seen one of the national cemeteries.  Viet Nam was in full rage and ultimately we came to lose too many friends, and some who came back were never the same.  It was a view of the aftermath that was unfolding with Viet Nam, but unlike World War II, too often those who returned were scorned, treated as outcasts.  Even in these early days, Thom’s answer was in the folk-music culture.  Mine was more in the anger and rage often a part of underground Los Angeles rock groups.  
One thing throughout all the iterations of Music Emporium that we were all consistent about was in our genuine detest of what we called ‘bubble gum’ 60’s pop music.  Even today, when I listen to a program of 60’s rock I will find myself grumbling when people relate the 60’s to the banal, insipid ‘bubble-gum’ pop stuff, with absolutely no comprehension of the other side.

How were the songs for the albums’ single “Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo” c/w “Times Like This” selected?  

We thought Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo was our strongest song, and best represented Music Emporium.  We thought that Times Like this provided a contrast, would be something to show versatility. 

Was there any discussion about a second album? Any unreleased material? 

I had developed the concept for a second album and toward the end we performed several of the songs.  The title would have been, “Multiple Choice, Everyone’s Almost There”.  “Let It Be Today” and “Beware” and “He is Standing There” were written by me.  Other songs included “Pretty Woman” and “Man Without a Name” written by Milt Bulian.  Many years later with the advent of midi I put down some of the charts as I remembered them, but I always knew something would be lost in the translation.  

How did critics receive the album?  Did it break in any markets?

I specifically remember two reading two reviews of the group ‘the morning after’.  Both were from the same performance.  One loved us.  We were visionary, ahead of our time.  The second claimed we were the second worst group they had ever heard, second only to Smokestack Lightning.  When we were loud, the noise was akin to an electronically amplified garbage disposal.  
We did not break in any markets.

What type of gear did you use? We're impressed with ideas behind your organ playing.

Ah, one of my favorite topics.  I have always loved technology and noise.  In my experience, bands in Los Angeles in the 1960s played louder than any place else in the world.  There was even talk at one time that liability concerns were going to force a limit in the volume levels in clubs and concerts.  In those days you did it with instrument amplifiers, vocals were left to fend on their own.    
In the group I started with a small General Electro Music combo organ and later migrated to a larger GEM organ, then to a pair of Vox Continentals, and ultimately B-3 with two Lesbian speakers.  I played the GEM and Vox Organs through a pair of Vox Amp heads with multiple bottoms.  I used both a Super Beatle solid state head and a Jennings A100 EL-34 tube head.  From the start I vowed I would never be overpowered by the guitar and in reality it took all this to compete with Dave playing through a Fender Showman single-15” JBL speaker driven with by a small amp.  
With my background on accordion and later on classical piano and organ I had solid keyboard technique, and ideas came primarily from classical music, sources as diverse as baroque music to works like the Widor organ toccata to the Saint Seans Organ Concerto.

Bill (William) with Organ.

Would you share your insight on the albums’ tracks?

Nam Myo Renge Kyo 
With a the proofing and everything else, somehow the ‘Ho’ was left out of Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo, however it was correct on the single.  The suggestion for use of the Buddhist chant as well as the lyrics came from Thom Wade.  

Velvet Sunsets 
Velvet Sunsets was one of three songs inspired from our visit to the National Memorial Cemetery in Hawaii.  We lost too many friends to Viet Nam and the impending reality of the draft and the war was in the constant thoughts of every young man of draft age.  It is sometimes misquoted that Carolyn was the sole vocalist for the song.  Actually the first two verses were sung by me, the final by Carolyn.  Again, lyrics came from Thom.

Prelude was a transitional work for Cage, written by me.  In performance it was an extended work – much longer than the recorded version.  Dave’s role in the song increased dramatically during his tenure with the group.  The words show the change from Thom’s vision to mine in the progression of the group.  The protest is shouted rather than spoken, and with far less eloquence.  I have almost total auditory recall of many performances of Prelude and several years ago tried to illustrate how the song would have been structured in one of our live performances, and much closer to how it would have been recorded at a later date.  A midi-inspired version where I am playing all the instruments can never compete with the original, but it might give a more accurate idea of what the final structure of more mature performance.  

Catatonic Variations 
My music is often considered ‘dark’.  Years later in working on the music for The Little Boy Who Lived with the Dragons with Lauren Michaels I felt that I had released some of that blackness, until Lauren made the comment, “that is the darkest music I have ever heard in my life.”  
We talked through Catatonic Variations at Sunset Sound shortly before recording it – taking only enough time to work through the basic riffs.  After that performance, both Dora and Carolyn refused to ever play the song again.
I guess I might say that Catatonic Variations is my ultimate description of depression and futility in life.

Times Like This 
Milt Bulian wrote Times Like This for Carolyn.  A fellow student from California State College, Long Beach, Milt was one of her close friends and became a good friend of all the band members.  Milt generally accompanied himself on guitar and my preference would have been for him to sing the song for the recording.  But with time constraints and schedules, it didn’t happen.  If there was a crossover song on the album it was Times Like This.  My parents even liked it.

Gentle Thursday 
The original song – the song that defined the group, Gentle Thursday.  This is one place where I think the sound most typically associated with the small combo organs of the day had a particularly nice musical effect.  As I listen to Gentle Thursday I can still see the endless rows of graves in the warm Hawaiian sun.  “Someday, when wars are in men’s minds, Gentle Thursday comes again.”  I can also still hear Thom singing it.  Consider for a moment the Pie Jesu from the Faure Requiem being sung by a well-trained soprano, effective.  Consider the same being sung by a boy soprano.  Paralyzing.

Winds Have Changed 
Winds Have Changed is another of Thom’s lyrics.  It was also the piece from the original oeuvre that changed the most with the transition to Dave Padwin.  Through Dave we were able to add more contrast and dynamic range without jeopardizing the original piece.  Thom and I sang this as a duet, then later it was Carolyn and I.  

Carolyn and Bill (William), 1969.

If life is ultimately about procreation, Cage is my realization of how man ultimately tries to control all parts of it – always in search of that ultimate climax. However, often without realizing it, the more one tries to control and exert power, the more one is enslaved as a helpless prisoner of his own making.  Expectations surpass reality.  That which is controlled controls.  The need for new conquests becomes the opiate with an insatiable appetite. 
If there was a theme for the group and for the album this was it.  In the session, Cage was an extended work, and in live performances even more extended.  One thing that is lost in the recording is the tremendous dynamic range of the group.  In rock, ballads are often at a higher volume than up-tempo works which has never made any sense to me.  When we were soft, like in the center part of Cage, we were very soft.  You could almost whisper over it.  When we were loud, there weren’t too many groups who were louder.  

Sun Never Shines 
As we recorded Music Emporium, we thought that we needed at least one ‘traditional’ rock piece.  It was Dave’s creation and perhaps provides the closet look at his capabilities as a guitarist.  Limited studio time didn’t facilitate over-dubs, he had to do it all.  Someone came up with the idea for the 3-part background vocals that were unfortunately dreadfully out of tune – but the magic Bill Lazerus created with the rolling reverb over Dora’s 16th-note drumming was a great effect.  

Day of Wrath
A different example of Music Emporium’s improvisational skills.  Discuss the basics, and go.  Based on a Gregorian chant from one of the hours and the Dies Irae.  Not a lot of preparation, probably only one take.  Maybe like the days of live television – it is what it is.

Many have applied the term ‘psychedelic’ to Music Emporium.   Did psychoactive or hallucinogenic drugs play a role in the songwriting, recording or performance processes?

We never applied the term psychedelic to what we did.  Though the term was certainly around describing what was later called a movement, we didn’t look at it that way.  To us, we were an underground Los Angeles Rock Group.  
Anyway, I have often been asked that question, and the answer is a surprise to most who don’t know us.  And without any judgement to whatever flights others may have taken on recreational pharmaceuticals, that answer is no.  
We didn’t have time.  Carolyn, Dora and I were all full-time college students.  I was maintaining a concert schedule on accordion.  Dora was teaching a full slate of private students, in addition to working with her mother attending to the needs of her father who was suffering with a terminal illness. To this day I don’t know how she ever did all of it.  She was also an uber-athlete. Dave was as conscientious as they came.  A glass of wine was almost as rare as actually sitting down to eat a meal.  Though occasionally we did enjoy an occasional Harvey Wallbanger at Dora’s house.
But in my experience, the craziest people I have known are often people who have never touched a drop of alcohol let alone any drugs.  A few who came in contact with Music Emporium fit into that category.  You wished they would get drunk or stoned so there would be at least some kind of excuse for their actions.  

To what do you attribute the album continuing to be held in such high esteem among music collectors?

I wish I could answer that, but I can’t.  I have personally never held the album in high esteem as it was a short-sell to the musical and personal excellence of all those involved, and I would have to take personal responsibility for much of that short-sell.
If I had high personal expectations for Music Emporium, I was quick to realize we would never reach them.  However, I can’t judge other’s expectations or reactions.  And I also feel it might be better to just accept them for whatever they mean to that individual.  
In the 1960’s we couldn’t give the album away.  

Bill (William) Conducting Dallas Symphony.

Would you discuss some of your most memorable moments in Music Emporium and what made them so?  

I have one story that has always been my favorite, and that involved Dora.  We were playing at Kaleidoscope a particularly good-looking young man approached Dora during one of the breaks.  One of his trademarks was long hair that was to the middle of his back.  
I wish there were videos of Dora playing as her visual movement was stunning.  Many rock drummers bang really hard, which is their shtick.  But Dora knew how to tune her drums, and she also had incredible technique.  Add that to the strength of an athlete combined with long, flowing hair, and it was sensual as well as being impressive.  Anyway, he approached her and she sort of blew him off.  Dora wasn’t in the least bit arrogant, and was most likely more worried about the performance.
The next night the young man appeared again, this time offering Dora a ball which had been made from his freshly cut hair.  It was a great gesture, but perhaps a bit too weird for Dora.  But that was the effect she had on an audience.  


Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. 

nam myoho renge kyo

William Cosby Today.

Additional files
- Two songs from Cosby's solo project from the '90s.
- Two songs, that would appear on their second album - Multiple Choice, Everyone’s Almost There.
- Document with Multiple Choice, Everyone’s Almost There lyrics.
- Cosby's comment on Sundazed reissue.
And some other goodies too, like "Dies Irae" and "Last Flight" from 'Little Boy Who Flew with the Dragons'.

Conducted for Psychedelic Baby Magazine by James Pollara. Interview edited for content by Klemen Breznikar.

Interview made by James Pollara, curated by Klemen Breznikar/2015
© Copyright

JAZZ CORNER Presents: Steven Walcott's introductory column

First off I wanted to thank Klemen for giving me some space on his psychedelic music magazine to write about improvised music/jazz, the most ignored and the least popular musical genre in America.

I will mostly be writing about Free Jazz which is the ugly stepchild of Jazz, making it the least popular branch of the least popular musical genre in America.

I'm sure 99.9% of this magazine's readers have listened to little or no jazz. Maybe you've heard it at the holidays when they wheel out the corpse of Smooth Jazz for Christ's birthday. There are fireballing, trippy jazz musicians out there, but their profile is low which is why I'm here.

Maybe you've asked yourself in total disbelief: how did Miley Cyrus' song "Wrecking Ball" get 758 million hits on Youtube? If half of everybody of that tuned in did so just to watch her swing back and forth naked on the wrecking ball, that still leaves a lot of people who think it's a good song. Or a lot of people tuned in to watch her lick a sledgehammer. I watched her lick it, it's weird. Even if 95% of folks tuned in just to get their perv on, that still leaves almost 38 million people who think that's an awesome tune. Breathtaking.

Popularity (and profitability thereof) is not an indicator of quality and Jazz doesn't suck because it's not huge like Indie Rock. There's an argument to be made that hugeness produces more sucking -- Wilco, for example.

There is also a misconception that you need to know a lot to understand and enjoy Jazz. The same can be said of wine but a good buzz is a good buzz even if i am a low IQ achiever.

I wanted to start this column off with what I consider a straight up Free Jazz/Punk Rock banger from Don Cherry's record "mu" first part. Ed Blackwell, the drummer on this track with Don Cherry, tears up the drum kit while incorporating African rhythms and music from New Orleans, where he grew up. And Don Cherry is right on in his trumpet playing. Hopefully you'll check it out and just listen to how these guys play and work their way through a tune by listening to each other.

p.s Jazz is a mostly acoustic music and it doesn't really make the journey through google's bullshit mono bandwidth unscathed so maybe you might want a streaming service. And I know the streaming stores suck, (I fucking hate spotify) but it is a way to check out music that I will be talking about. I use beats, which has the best audio quality, but it has no free version.

p.p.s. There is also a stereotype that Jazz listeners are pretentious douchebags. I'm not going to deny that I have met ill douchebags in Jazz, but I have seen no proof that the douche ratio in Jazz is any higher than the douche ratio in Hip Hop (Kanye!) or heavy metal (lead singer of Metallica?). I will confess that I have been called a douchebag probably every two weeks or so over the course of my life, but i'm not pretentious.

p.p.p.s. Finally, I want to recommend a couple records from genres outside of jazz to show that I know my records. Maybe you've checked out Pig Destroyer's 2012 record Book Burner. Oh my, that will get your blood pressure going. Or Jeri Jeri's 2013 record 800% Ndagga -- that's an obscure one, but that's some heavy African music.  

Column made by Steven Walcott/2015
© Copyright

Pretty Lightning exclusive track for It's Psychedelic Baby, released by Cardinal Fuzz / Sound Effect Records

Cardinal Fuzz / Sound Effect Records are proud to present to you 'A Magic Lane of Light and Rain' the new long player from Pretty Lightning. Pretty Lightning is a psychedelic blues duo and the spiritual home of Christian Berghoff and Sebastian Haas - brothers in mind and sons of the Datashock family collective. Formed in 2007 their debut LP was released via Fonal and showcased their rolling and tumblin' Spacemen 3 in the Mississippi chug.
Now in 2015 Pretty Lightning present 'A Magic Lane of Light and Rain' a throbbing delta blues psychedelic gloop that collides with the communal vibe of some of their Krautrock forefathers. Recorded in a way that holds no regards for studio polish or any hi-tech sheen - Pretty Lightning favour sounds that bleed together and push their music into a fuzzy sun-baked back porch haze. 'A Magic Lane Of Light and Rain' provides you with pounding stomping drums, reverb drenched dirty riffs, ghostly vocals, analog keys/loops and songs that sound as though there coming filtered from a long faded dream.

1. Bow Low
2. Marble Moon
3. Woodlands
4. Hypnooze
5. Good Old Liar
6. Mooshine Blooze
7. A Gift From A Bone To A Bell
8. The Rainbow Machine
9. The Hobo Theme
10. Graveyard Howls

Aquila interview

From left to right: Phil Childs (bass/piano); Ralph Denyer (guitar/vocals); George Lee (sax/flute); Martin Woodward (organ); James Smith (drums/percussion).
© James Smith

Aquila were a five-piece progressive rock band from the UK who, in their time together during that wonderfully creative and burgeoning prog scene of the day, sadly left us with only one 1970-issued, self-titled release on RCA. Flute, sax, and the venerable Hammond augment the classic bass-drums-guitar bedrock, affording a jazz-inflected sound not too dissimilar to the output of the Neon, Dawn, and Transatlantic labels at that time—think Raw Material, Diabolus, Tonton Macoute, or Hannibal. 

Read on as Martin Woodward (Hammond) and James Smith (drums, percussion) share all, from the band’s beginnings, vividly-recounted and humorous accounts from ‘on the road’, to Aquila’s stifled potential.

Aquila were:

Ralph Denyer—Vocals, electric & acoustic guitars
Phil Childs—Fender bass, piano
George Lee—Flute, alto, soprano, tenor & baritone saxes
Martin Woodward—Hammond organ
James Smith—Drums, timpani & various percussion

Where were you born and could you share some of your favourite bands growing up? When did you start learning piano/keys/organ and who were some of your influences? Did you play any other instruments before picking up the keys/organ?

Martin: I was born in London in 1949—although I am half-Welsh (my mother)—and also the youngest band member. Many write-ups about Aquila have suggested that we were a Welsh band, which is incorrect (and must have annoyed the pants off the others)—I am the only Welsh connection. Ralph Denyer's previous band, Blonde on Blonde, was predominantly Welsh, which is no doubt where the error came from.

I started learning the piano aged about 6. My greatest influences were jazz organists: Brother Jack McDuff and Jimmy Smith—also Graham Bond. 

My favourite bands when growing up were The Shadows, The Graham Bond Organisation, The Animals, The Zombies, The Moody Blues, The Pedlars, and The Yardbirds—plus, of course, The Beatles and The Stones. I had the very great pleasure of attending Led Zeppelin's very first gig in the Marquee Club, London, when they were originally called The New Yardbirds. Back in those days you could have ringside seats to see great bands for peanuts!

I tried playing drums briefly as a teenager but dropped them as I was crap—and there was more demand for keyboard players.

Immediately before Aquila, I was working with James in a soul band called The Fantastics. We split to form Aquila with Phil—who had previously worked with James—and we found Ralph via an advert in the Melody Maker. George came along a little later.

Could you tell us a bit more about The Fantastics? Was that the first band you were in and were there any others pre-Aquila? Please feel free to go into as much detail as you like—band members, fond memories, etc..

Martin: After numerous semi-pro London bands, my first professional band was called Tapestry, who made a couple of singles, but didn't do a lot. While I was with them I met Pip Williams (by chance)—who was the guitarist with The Fantastics—and he got me the gig with them (where I met Jim). The other member of The Fantastics band was Ron Thomas on bass, but I don't know what happened to him. 

Pip went on to become a top record producer for Status Quo, Barbara Dixon,…and was the brains behind many huge-hit records including “Kung Fu Fighting” (by Carl Douglas).

Getting to the formation of Aquila...You met James via The Fantastics, Phil knew James, and Ralph came on board via a Melody Maker ad (after having been in Blonde on Blonde). You mention George “Snakes” Lee—on flute and saxophones—joining a little later; could you elaborate on that (and on the “Snakes” nickname)? How were the first few practice sessions? Did it take long to settle on the type of music you wanted to play? Ralph is credited as sole composer on the back cover of the LP; did it take long for the songs on the album to take form?

Martin: Although George was the last to join Aquila, it was still very early on and only a few weeks after we started rehearsing. Initial rehearsals with Aquila went great, but it was clear from the outset that something was missing—hence George who we found via the Melody Maker. George fitted like a glove immediately. Before we even began rehearsing it was clear that we were all in the same musical 'groove'.

Having completed the line-up, we initially got a set together using our arrangements of 'cover material’, which to be honest was good stuff and I wish we could have kept some of it in our act (but I got voted out on that one). 

Then we went to Rome for a month and worked in the Piper Club—which curiously is still there—under the name Tapestry, where we worked on our material for the album. 

It's true that Ralph wrote the material, but the arrangements were very much a group thing. Other editorials about Aquila suggest that Ralph was the 'leader’, which was rubbish. There was no 'leader’; everything was democratic and there were few arguments.

We later went back to the Piper Club in Rome as Aquila, doing entirely our own material. 

I never knew George as “Snakes”. I've no idea where he is now and would love to find him. I've read that he joined a group called Arrival, but have seen no pictures to confirm that it was actually him or not; there was another George Lee saxophonist on the scene and they may have got confused.

You'll probably never find George—although I hope you do—but I can tell you that he was a big John Coltrane fan and more of a jazzer than anything else. He was married to a lovely girl called Sherree—probably spelt wrong—who was half-English and half-Indian. George was really a 'home bird' and not really suited to life on the road, so I guess he ended up playing in local jazz bands (but I could be wrong).

James: So, just to say I would concur with Martin regarding the formation of Aquila, except he is being a little modest. Actually, the existence of Aquila is entirely due to Martin and myself. When we were with The Fantastics we formed a genuine friendship. Also, musically, we were very compatible—very much into jazz-rock. We generally roomed together on the road and often talked at length about music and original arrangements etc.; I remember us discussing creating an instrumental version of “MacArthur Park”. 
Anyway, when The Fantastics went back to the US, we were out of work. Martin was crashing at my flat in Ealing, and it was almost an unspoken understanding that we should try to create something ourselves, rather than just look for another gig. I mentioned that I knew a really good bass player of a similar musical leaning, and if he was free we could get together and see what happened. Luckily, Phil (Childs) was indeed free, so we arranged a rehearsal room; within half an hour it was as if we'd been playing together for years, so we all decided to give it a go.
None of us could sing, so we advertised for a guitarist/vocalist and were lucky enough to get Ralph, who again fitted in seamlessly—as did George a little later, as Martin said. Also, me too regarding the "Snakes" nickname; I'm sure it wasn't our George. I think that maybe he is getting confused with the Ghanaian jazz tenor player, George Lee?
Regarding the compositions on the album, I would go further and say that we, as a band, didn't get nearly enough credit for the material—no one to blame, just the way it turned out. Ralph would come up with some lyrics and a very basic chord sequence—nowhere near what you could call a finished piece. We would then build on that as a team—each of us adding according to our skills—with the end result being very much a product of our combined ability. 

Martin in front of the Colosseum, Rome.
© Martin Woodward

How did the band name "Aquila" come about and when and where were you spotted by RCA?

Martin: We toyed with lots of names and were almost going to be “Animal Farm”. As you probably know, “Aquila” means “Eagle”, as well as a star structure. I can't remember who came up with the name originally—it wasn't me—but we all liked it, and even now I think it's a great name. I loved the album cover, which was in fact a drawing of Goldie, the golden eagle who, at that time, was in London Zoo and quite famous. Keith, who did the drawings on the album, was a friend of ours.

We did originally want an eagle’s cry at the beginning of the album, and Ralph went to London Zoo and asked the keeper if he could take some recording gear there to record Goldie. The keeper said, "You can try if you like mate, but I've been here 30 years and haven't heard him make a sound yet!”, so we gave up on that one!

Can't remember when exactly we got the deal with RCA, but we were in negotiations with a few record companies and they were the first ones to cough up some money in advance. With me being the youngest, I just went with the flow.

James: What I remember (somewhat hazy) about choosing the name: Initially, we couldn't remotely decide on anything; we did the first gig at the Piper Club in Rome using the name of Martin's old band, Tapestry, who I believe had ceased to exist. We subsequently had almost decided on "Animal Farm”, which we had all agreed on—but not with much enthusiasm, it has to be said. At the time, Ralph was living in a house share in Hendon. Alistair, the owner, was really good to us, and had virtually given us his large lounge to rehearse in; it became almost like a second home to all of us. I remember being there after rehearsal one evening with Ralph, Alistair, and a couple of the other housemates; I'm not sure if Phil was there or not, but I think Martin and George had left. Anyway, we were all smoking weed and generally talking rubbish, when the topic of the band's name came up. One of the guys (can't remember his name) who was into astrology suggested that rather than name the band after a 'somewhat depressing' book, why not name it after a star or constellation. Out came a book, and we came across the name “Aquila”—a constellation which was also the Latin for “eagle”. It was prominent in Roman mythology as the sacred bird that carried Jupiter's thunderbolt. It instantly appealed to us and at rehearsal the next day we all decided to adopt it.

Moving on to the album. Firstly, why sign with RCA? In hindsight probably not the best decision, but they were the only ones that offered a cash (non-returnable) advance. On the surface that sounds a bit mercenary, but it has to be remembered in the context of the times. Like Martin rightly said, we had to earn a living, and although we were a very good band, we weren't really earning what we deserved. We weren't alone! At that time, musicians—the people creating and delivering ‘the product’—were right at the bottom of the 'food chain'. The whole industry was infested with 'middle men' who did nothing except feed off the talent and hard work of others. Even though a venue might pay a fair amount for a good band, it would probably have gone through several promoters/agents who would all help themselves; by the time it got to us—and we had shelled out for transport and accommodation—it often didn't amount to much to split 5 ways. Then of course supply and demand was a factor; there were so many bands around [that] promoters had the attitude, “If you don't want to work for peanuts, we'll soon find someone who will.”. Even hit singles weren't a guarantee of a decent living; The Small Faces, among others, would certainly testify to that.

Martin Woodward.
© Martin Woodward

Could you talk about your experience recording in the studio? Was this your first time in one? Do any particular memories spring to mind? Were there any tracks you played live that you wish had made it onto the album?

Martin: We'd all recorded before, but for me it was the first album. I’m not sure about the others, but I know Ralph had done a previous album with Blonde on Blonde. 

I can't remember the name of the studio, but I know it was a new one at the time on the Old Kent Road and was one of the first to have a 16-track mixing deck.

I personally would have liked to have included a couple of 'cover' tracks—which we did bloody well—but as I said before, I got voted out on that one! Also, a bit more instrumental stuff, which we were good at.

Beyond that, I would have liked to have re-recorded my solos—which make me cringe—but everyone else said, “Oh, they're alright!”. But all of our (mine and George's) solos were always entirely improvised and never the same twice, and how good they'd turn out were entirely dependent on how the band gelled together. If Jim and Phil (the driving force) were having a good day, then my solos would sound fantastic; if they were playing crap, then so would I. Everything that Jim said was correct: No one in the band was carried; every member was the most important! 

And I, with knowing what I know now, would have mixed it all differently. Right now I'm learning Sonar X2 (just got X3 but not loaded it yet), and I'm utterly amazed at how different you can make stuff sound by re-mixing and messing with the EQ etc.—and I'm only using 3 tracks (keyboard, bass, and drums).

Although I loved Ralph and what he did, he was NOT a lead guitarist, and in my opinion some of what he did (on the guitar) was too prominent on the album—but I loved the songs and his vocals!

Also, what Jim said about the rest of the band not getting enough credit was correct. Not to take anything away from Ralph, but it was very much a joint project. In fact, I remember Jim talking about how he would like to end the album before we even met the others; the timpani and tubular bells at the end—which should have been increased in volume on the mix—and general feel of the track were Jim's idea from way back. 

James: Martin's comments regarding recording with Aquila brought back a flood of memories, and also a degree of frustration.
After signing the contract, we were assigned Patrick Campbell-Lyons (ex-Nirvana) as a producer and an American employee of RCA, Lou Reizner, as executive producer (i.e. holder of the purse strings). The studio we used was Manfred Mann's new premises in the Old Kent Road. I don't know how that was chosen, but it was a new 16-track setup—and probably as good as any. Patrick seemed to know what he was doing, but throughout the sessions there seemed to be a lot of pressure on him to get it done. Martin mentioned he would have liked to have re-done some of his stuff; I think there were quite a few things we would all have liked to re-do, but there was a lot of “It's fine. It will do.” noise from the production team. As for the final mix, this was done by Patrick, Lou, and Ralph; the rest of us had no involvement whatsoever, and it has to be said the result was a little disappointing. Martin's comment regarding Ralph's guitar playing and prominence on some tracks is spot on. Also, I had always found his timing a little suspect at times. I never mentioned it as his other contributions were so valuable and on stage it didn't really come across, but on the album it is noticeable.
Regarding the content, Martin is right in saying that we did some really good cover versions in our own style, and some of our instrumental stuff was of a very high standard. I could be wrong, but I seem to remember that it was part of the RCA contract that the album would be 100% original material; it was pretty much obligatory at the time.

Are there any gigs or memories from touring that stick out for you? We’d love to hear any!

Martin: There were so many memorable gigs: Certainly both times we worked at the Piper Club in Rome and also the Paradiso in Amsterdam were pretty amazing, but there were so many great times and great memories which I'm truly thankful for. Although we were always skint, they were the very best of times. Other great gigs were Leeds Uni, Exeter Uni, and the Country Club West Hampstead, where we supported Elton John. We also worked with David Bowie somewhere else. The Roundhouse Chalk Farm was another great gig, and also the 1970 Plumpton (open air) Festival. Funnily enough, another really memorable, great gig was when we worked in a Chinese restaurant and there were about six people in the audience—but it was great! 

George had an amazing habit of shouting out “Hey!” (hay) every time we drove passed a haystack. I adopted this habit and still annoy my wife the same way! He also collected cigarette vouchers, although he never smoked. He used to pick up all the empty cig packets at the end of every gig and collect thousands of vouchers left behind. One day I saw him throw down an empty packet in disappointment, and a guy came up to him with a cigarette and said, “Here you are mate, have one of mine!”.

Anyway, here's the Roman story:

After having completing our line-up and initial practice sessions, we got a set together consisting of mainly covers and went to the Piper Club in Rome in late 1969, for a month, to earn a few bob—and also work on our own stuff ready for the album. Curiously, it's still there and still called the Piper Club.

First thing, we needed a van—preferably one that cost nothing. Jim managed to acquire an old, small removal van with a Luton cab (bed over), where we put a mattress to take turns at sleeping. Now, back in those days, heaters in vehicles were an optional extra; we didn't have one, so it was a bit nippy going over the Alps, but it got us there.

Now I don't know whether you know about this or not, but in those days going through France with musical instruments was a no-no as you had to have a ‘carnet’—which involved paying a deposit of 50% of the value of the equipment, which all had to be checked and accounted for etc.—as it was all worth much more in France. As we never had that kind of money, our route to Italy was Belgium—Germany—Switzerland—Italy—no problem!

Anyway, we did the gig—which was great—and we had a great time in Rome, but as winter was setting in, there was no way back over the Alps except through the Mont Blanc Tunnel into France! So, we thought we'd risk it. Jim and I had previously worked in France with The Fantastics earlier in the year and got in from Germany without a carnet, so we thought maybe they wouldn't notice that we were English—as if!

As we had to come back through France, our agent arranged us some gigs in Paris on the way back, and we had instructions to meet M. Jean Bernard in a café in Paris about 24 hours after leaving Rome.

Anyway, when we arrived at the opening of the Monte Blanc Tunnel after having left the Italian border, unsurprisingly we were stopped for the carnet. The money that we all made in Rome was nowhere near enough, so we hung around for a bit and tried negotiating, which was quite difficult as we didn't speak French and they didn't speak English. Also, by this time, it was freezing cold and belting it down with snow. Our next line of action was to go back into Italy to see if we could find an alternative route, like a smaller, more difficult crossing. Jim could do it; he could do anything! But at the Italian border they decided that they also wanted a carnet; normally the Italians didn't bother about such things. So we were stuck in no man’s land between the two borders, and it was getting colder and the snow was getting deeper—and of course we had no heater. I actually didn't think it was possible to be so cold and still alive! But we managed to refrain from huddling up to one another to share body warmth—that would have been a step too far!

Then we tried phoning the British consulate in Turin. They weren't much use; they just told us to dump the gear on top of the mountain and go home without it. My organ cost me a bloody fortune and I hadn't even half-paid for it, so that wasn't an option. Even if the others had decided to do that—which they didn’t—I would have stayed there and died with my organ!

By then, night had turned back to day and it was getting even colder—if that was possible. Ralph had a sleeping bag which we shared—one at a time—to keep the blood from freezing! 

The customs men had three eight-hour shifts and we tried each one in turn to see if one was more understanding of our plight—but they weren't. Each shift was as miserable as the last! It was 1969, only 25 years after we won the bloody war; you'd think that they might have been at least a little compassionate! I remember Phil—who could speak a little French—was pleading with them on the grounds that we all had mothers worrying about us, but his French wasn't that good; he was probably accidentally calling them a bunch of mother fuckers! He might as well have been for the good it did!

Anyway, after we'd tried all the shifts and it was night again, we thought that, as we'd been there that long, that they'd hardly notice us if we coasted into the tunnel quietly with the engine switched off. Worth a try, as it was downhill and the barrier was open! Well, we got about 25 metres and they started firing warning shots at us. At least I think they were warning shots, but we thought we'd better stop and see what happens next. 

Well, we got a heavy on-the-spot fine for that and, surprisingly, they arranged us a carnet for a reduced deposit, which was still a substantial amount, and was more or less every penny we had (barring expenses) to continue. 

At last we were free and we'd got into France. I'll never forget the first village the other side of the tunnel is called Les Houches. We stopped there in the snow at a little skiing hotel which was still open at about 3:00am and we had jambon sandwiches and black coffee. I don't even drink coffee—especially black—but I remember that tasting better than anything before or since, as I was that cold and hungry. And we got such a warm welcome there, just after I was cursing every Frenchman and swearing I'd never set foot in the place ever again.

Next stop: Paris. But we were at least 24 hours late. We thought we'd go to the cafe just in case Jean Bernard was still there. Well he was. And very disgruntled. He just got in the van and said,

“I av zee gig, you are not ere—vot can I do? Fuck zem, you know. Zis vay, zis vay.” (French accent and lots of Gaelic shrugs; you can probably do it much better than me!). 

We said,

"Have we got a gig or not?”. 

“I av zee gig, you are not ere—vot can I do? Fuck zem, you know. Zis vay, zis vay." (more gaelic shrugs). 

“For you, I av zee competition. If you win, you get paid. If you don’t…(big Gaelic shrug). Fuck zem, you know. Zis way, zis way.”, continuing to give directions to goodness knows where. 

“Listen”, we said. “We're not working for nothing—we're professionals!”

To which the reply was, 

"Don't vorry, don't vorry. I am zee judge. Fuck zem, you know. Zis vay!" 

We finally arrived at some crappy little French club which was about three floors up. So we all walked up the stairs to see if it was worth getting the gear out.

“You bloody Engleesh, you all ze same. You av all zis gear and you valk up all zees stairs and you CARRY NOTHING!”

“Listen man, give us a break. We haven't slept for 3 days!”. 

“But I av not slept for 20 years!” (big Gaelic shrug).

Apparently he was an insomniac and never slept—probably all that French black coffee!

We eventually dragged all the gear up the stairs and won the competition (unsurprisingly). But our winnings were about half of what we should have got paid anyway, and the hotel was supposed to be paid, but it wasn’t—big rip-off! And by today's standards, health and safety would certainly have closed the hotel down ten times over!

We were assured that things were going to get better, but we just knew the guy was a crook. The next gig was in a plush château. I think it was a four-year-old kid's birthday party, and he'd been put to bed so that everyone else could get pissed. Well the gig went fine, but again we didn't get paid the previously-agreed amount.

At the end of the gig Phil and I noticed a red-hot storage heater in one of the back rooms, and we decided to nick it to try and warm the van up a bit. So we unplugged it, chucked a speaker cover over it, and struggled out with it unnoticed—bloody heavy, as it was full of bricks! When we got it to the van, we found that the others had been pinching loads of silver; don't judge us, we were starving musicians who'd just been ripped off! I'm not sure who nicked what, but the stuff was everywhere; it was like Ali Baba's cave in there!

But then Jean Bernard decided he wanted a lift back into Paris, so we hurriedly chucked all the booty onto the mattress above—the heater included—but it caught fire. Jim was driving, with Jean Bernard sat next to him saying, "Vot is zat smell?”, while the rest of us were beating the flames out!

It was a relief when Jean Bernard got out. Then we managed to get things back to normal in the back of the van. The next night we did the last less-eventful French gig, but then we realised that we had to have the van checked at the customs to get our carnet money back and we'd got all this 'loot’. Unfortunately, we decided that it had to go, so we dumped it in someone’s dustbin after the gig, on the way back to the port. I have a vague memory of a little old lady giving us the thumbs up as we were sticking the stuff in her dustbin, but I'm not sure whether I dreamt that or not.

At the port we did fortunately get most of our carnet money back. Jim commented recently that the look on the custom guy’s face was priceless when he saw how much they had to give us, and they had to raid a cash machine to get enough money for us—I must have been asleep then.

It's a fantastic memory which I'm so grateful to have.

It would be great if you could say a few words about each song on the album, for instance anything you can remember in terms of each song's construction and other interesting facts (such as how James wanted to end the album with timpani and tubular bells).

Martin: I’m not going to be much help here as the memory is failing a bit, but basically most of the songs were constructed by Ralph coming up with the original idea and getting us all to play along with different rhythms. This created more ideas between all of us, and the songs evolved that way.

My favourite tracks are “How Many More Times” and “While You Were Sleeping”, which is one of the tracks where George and I did riffs in harmony—and this created the Aquila sound. I also had the Hammond running at half speed on that track, which created quite an interesting sound. I also very much like the ending, which I've said was entirely a joint creation. 

Jim's idea about the ending originated when we were with The Fantastics and very much into the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which used the timpani at the beginning when the apemen were jumping around the monolith that arrived from outer space. We often had the privileged of passing Stonehenge early in the morning—just as the sun was coming up—and we used to play monkeys around the stones (before they put the fence around them). In fact, we were probably the reason that they put the fence round them!

 © Keith Besford
Photographed by Sébastien Métens

Could you say a bit about how and why Aquila disbanded?

Martin: Aquila didn't so much disband as fell apart. No one actually said, “Right, that's it. We're done.”. RCA didn't do anything for us, and the main reason it fell apart was lack of funds, or rather lack of gigs (which amounts to the same thing). But I was always hopeful that it would all get going again.

James: I don't know if Martin would agree with this but, from my recollection, I felt that the main reason was that we simply lost the enthusiasm. Yes, there were some contract issues regarding Ralph and RCA [but I don’t feel like they were the main reason]. We had all put a hell of a lot of effort and hard work into the material and the album itself; when it didn't take off, it was very disappointing. The production was not as good as it could have been and RCA did virtually nothing regarding promotion. Though nothing was said directly at the time, we just seemed to lose the impetus. In hindsight—a mistake; we should have learned from the experience and stuck at it.

Martin: Jim is certainly right about the fact that RCA did nothing for us—I guess we were just tax loss! We were a good band, but just not getting the gigs that we should have had. To be honest, I'd previously earned a lot more money playing in crap semi-pro bands—such a shame. We weren't greedy, but we did need to survive! But that's life!

James: There was no specification regarding a promotion budget and no provision for releasing a single; a 3.5min version of “The Hunter” and “How Many More Times” for a B-side would have been a respectable offering—in my opinion, anyway. Finally, and most significant, was that it was only for one album. Had it been for two—which I pushed for at the time—I don't think we would have lost the enthusiasm as we did, and we would have stuck together, learned from the experience, and who knows where it may have led.
In spite of that, the album was quite well received in some quarters; it got a lot of exposure on Radio Luxembourg, and later on became somewhat of a collectors’ item in the genre of ‘70s British prog rock. I've heard that an original vinyl in mint condition was fetching $150+ around 2000/2001.

Poem on the back cover of the LP, written by Ralph Denyer. “Bailey’s wood” refers to Ralph’s guitar, made by a Mr. Bailey.
© Ralph Denyer
Photographed by Sébastien Métens

Could you tell our readers what musical outfits you were involved in after Aquila, and are you still active musically today? If so, we'd love to hear about some of your projects!

Martin: After Aquila—and in order to eat—I got a job driving a taxi for a while, then Jim and I worked briefly with Geno Washington (which I can't say that I enjoyed—no disrespect to Geno or the other band members). I then went on to work with The Tommy Hunt Band, where we also did TV and recording work for Emile Ford. He was trying to make a comeback; he had the first UK No.1 of the ‘60s with “What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?”! With Tommy, we were mainly working up North, and it was mainly cabaret, which meant we were working every night (but a week in each venue—pretty easy really) and for once I was actually earning really good money. Other band members there were Tex Marsh on drums, Roger Flavell on bass, and Kevin Fogarty (sadly now passed on) on guitar—all superb musicians. Although The Tommy Hunt band were bloody good and I had a great time with them, Aquila was still haunting me.

Some of the pranks that we used to play on one another are outlined in my book, The Golden Sphere, which is both totally stupid and serious at the same time! Busby the Bear is Kevin, Tex the Bear is Tex, Wriggly the Bear is Roger, Pippo the Clown is Pip, and I'm Bonjo. Download link: 

Whilst with Tommy, I met my wife in Sheffield (who I'm still with over 40 years later). Sadly I left Tommy as they were due to do a long tour down South, and I didn't want to leave the wife. Actually, it tore me apart and was a very difficult decision. The band were literally begging me to stay with them—and they were a great band—and my wife was begging me to leave.

Anyway, I stayed in Sheffield and then worked in a small club/restaurant for a while, where I eventually ended up backing strippers (there's a few funny stories there as well).

Then I eventually fell into driving instructing, which I did for over 30 years. Not playing music really depressed me, and I didn't touch a keyboard or ever listen to music for over 10 years as it upset me so much.

At age 54, I sold the driving school and we retired to Cyprus, where we had a lovely villa with pool and all the trimmings. Whilst there, I played the keyboard in a really nice restaurant (on my terms) called the Almond Tree in Paphos. 

But Cyprus is bloody hot and I couldn't stand it, so we returned to the UK and toured Europe in a motorhome for a year, before finally settling in Lincolnshire, and then eventually back to Sheffield.

Right now, I only play the keyboard for my own amusement, but I am writing tunes and my music books. I've just put my keyboard up for sale in order to buy a keyboard workstation, which will enable me to record better and easier than I can at the moment—so watch this space!

The download link for my latest keyboard book is:

Could you sum up your feelings about your time with Aquila and the band, looking back at all of it now? Also, the last word is yours, if you wish to say anything to fans new and old, etc.—that sort of thing!

Martin: Looking back at just about anything and everything, given a second chance, we'd all do stuff better, and that's certainly my feelings about the Aquila album. But it was 45 years ago, and technology is in another world now. But having said that, I'm sincerely very grateful and privileged to have had the experience of the music—and the friendship—with Aquila. 

It was certainly one of the best times of my life—despite the fact that we were all perpetually skint—which proves that money isn't everything, by any means.

I'd like to thank all the other band members and Alistair—who owned the house at Hendon where we rehearsed—for the fantastic memories, and everyone who ever bought our album or listened to it or came to see us. Sincerely—thanks! And thanks to you, Sébastien, for rekindling all these memories and relighting my fire!

Looking at other bands from that era who made it big, in many cases that's when the rot sets in and things become much too business-like and friendship goes out the window. Look at Procol Harum: The original three were initially all mates together; 40-odd years on, they're arguing about royalties! I'm glad we never had such problems; we just had the fun and became 'rich' in other ways!

James: One of the best things about Aquila, for me anyway, was the way that we were all so like-minded—all of us pulling in the same direction and giving 100%. There were no passengers, and I don't remember any significant disagreements.

Interview made by Sébastien Métens/2015
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