CD - Hux Records, HUX 027
About as Curious as It Can Be
1. Renaissance Dance Medley [3:38]
Richard Harvey - keyboards, recorders,|
Brian Gulland - bassoon, bass krumhorn
David Oberlé - drums, glockenspiel
Graeme Taylor - guitar, mandolin
Philip Nestor - bass guitar (tracks 1-3)
Malcolm Bennett (Markovich) - bass guitar, flute (tracks 4-8)
Produced by Jeff Griffin (BBC)|
Tracks 1-3 recorded for 'Radio 1 In Concert'
3.5.1974 Hippodrome, Golders Green.
Tracks 4-8 recorded for 'Radio 1 In Concert'
13.11.1975 Paris Theatre, London.
© 2002 Hux Records Ltd
NE blissful Thursday afternoon, sometime in the late summer of 1971, there was a rare personal call for me, then the 17-year old junior costing clerk at Decca Navigator at New Malden in Surrey. It was my old school pal and musical rival Richard Harvey, to tell me that guitarist Chris Wilson had just pulled out of Richard’s restaurant trio to pursue what turned out to be a very successful solo career as a lutenist, and would I be interested in filling his shoes three evenings a week parading around, entertaining customers in Kensington’s tourist trap, Escalade, and trendy vegetarian restaurant, Teddy Bear’s Picnic, in Fulham Road. Considering my options I instantaneously realised, despite my recent performance-related pay rise from £8.50 to £9.50 for a forty hour week, I would not only have a lot more time on my hands, but also, at £5.00 per head, per gig three times a week, be taking a significant 50% gain in income. I failed to appear at Decca Navigator on Friday, nor in fact did I ever tap on their adding machine again.
Thus, through a reunion with Richard and a meeting with his mate from the Royal College of Music, the self-styled, hippiecum- tree, Brian Gulland, were the seeds of the strange hybrid musical creature, Gryphon sewn.
Sixties beat and pop had turned multicoloured. The Beatles had gone. We were all looking for a new direction. Softer acoustic sounds had become popular through Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, The Pentangle etc. We’d become fascinated with the jangly sounds of harpsichords and the strident honeyed glue of massed crumhorns, and John Renbourn’s amalgamation of Elizabethan styles with jazzy blues. We devoured all these new influences with insatiable appetite, and out of it all, youthful arrogance on our side, evolved the multifaceted, highly original, clever, and good humoured Gryphon music.
We augmented the trio with a rock drummer somebody met at a party, but limited him to a small percussion kit. At first we drew on folk songs and genuine medieval estampies, our irreverent readings of which endeared us neither to the folk nor the medieval purists.
Before long, more original material emerged, we were playing small college and folk club gigs, and soon the band got spotted and signed up by Transatlantic records and so we entered the new and exciting world of recording. Everything was happening so quickly, we were very young and ignorant of the business and it was hard to keep up. The diary was filled with photo sessions - see the memorably glam pin-up from The Sun - in the column written by “The journalist who knows where it’s at”! Or posing in front of famous London landmarks wearing silly clothes with very long flowing hair and equally long bent horns (by the way “Krumm” is German for bent), and countless interviews. We were played on all four BBC radio stations in the same week - mass appeal or what? Jim’ll Fix It and Magpie were among the TV shows; we were the first and last band to appear at the Old Vic - we literally rocked the rafters - structural damage to the building was observed subsequent to our performance. Another first was playing to a school outing of 16 year old girls at the Victoria and Albert Museum: our first teenage mobbing. Great indeed was the number of fronts upon which our extremely enthusiastic publicist, Martin Lewis, would expose us. I now gather that Martin does PR for the Labour party: in fact I noticed just yesterday pictures of Tony Blair splashed all over the papers strumming a Telecaster…
Two years later saw us yearning for a bigger sound, more rocky. We were influenced by progressive band, Yes, and their long symphonic forms. Electrically-blown harmonium and keyboard glockenspiel gave way to banks of keyboards, Moog Synthesiser and flowing Rick Wakemanesque robes; electric guitars and a full kit of drums appeared. We were now doing major venues supporting the likes of Steeleye Span and Yes themselves, with whom at the high spot of the band's career we toured across the States for six weeks playing even larger halls like Madison Square Garden and massive Sports arenas including the 68,000 seater Houston Astrodome, a memorable gig with The Mahavishnu Orchestra also on the bill. It took twenty-five minutes to be wheeled around the perimeter on a trolley from the dressing room to back stage - Rock and Roll!
What made Gryphon so special were the people. A colourful bunch of very differing characters, quite extreme and tangential and all extremely and tangentially creative. Which of course in the end, set against the backdrop of an increasingly disillusioned decade, resulted in our dissolution.
These recordings emerged totally out of the blue - hardly any live material from our hundreds of gigs exists. It was with trepidation, delight and some frustration that I reviewed them. The sense ofoccasion is fantastic - you can feel the excitement, the astoundment. The “WHAT are they doing?” and the “What DO they look like?” factors are tangible. I don’t want to sound arsey - we didn’t know what we were doing - there was no preconception of category or style: we just did what we pleased. “It’s all about as curious as it can be”, said the Gryphon in Alice in Wonderland. The dear old Beeb engineer (like teachers, they all wore leather elbow patches on their jackets) did his best bouncing it all down to stereo on the spot. Sometimes the mix is just dreadful - that’s the only frustration, but one thing it reminded me was that, unlike some of our contemporaries, we were never up our arses, we never took ourselves too seriously; lurking very close to the surface there was always a giant guffaw - it was quite acceptable, indeed expected, in the middle of a 14th Century estampie, startlingly performed by Mr Harvey on his magic pipes, for the bassoon to launch into a quote from the Doctor Finlay’s Casebook theme tune, after which we’d have been mortified had Brian not soared into the familiar strains of the Fry’s Turkish Delight commercial.