The British Invasion touched off by Beatlemania had pretty much subsided by the early 1970s, but by then rock music itself was becoming an international phenomenon, with many of the most influential bands coming from the United Kingdom. Some of those bands have direct ties to the British Invasion itself, such as our opening group...
Title: Hold Your Head Up
Source: European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: All Together Now)
Label: Sony Music (original US label: Epic)
Following the dissolution of the Zombies, keyboardist Rod Argent went about forming a new band called, appropriately enough, Argent. The new group had its greatest success in 1972 with the song Hold Your Head Up, which went to the #5 spot on the charts in both the US and UK. The song originally appeared on the album All Together Now, with a running time of over six minutes. The first single version of the tune ran less than three minutes, but was quickly replaced with a longer edit that made the song three minutes and fifteen seconds long. In the years since, the longer LP version has come to be the most familiar one to most radio listeners.
Artist: Moody Blues
Title: Nights In White Satin
Source: LP: Days Of Future Passed
When the year 1967 started, the Moody Blues were still considered a one-hit wonder for their song Go Now, which had topped the British charts in 1965 and gone into the top 10 in the US as well. None of their follow-up singles had charted in the US, although they did manage to hit the #22 spot in the UK with From the Bottom of My Heart (I Love You). Despite still being a solid live draw, the group had pretty much dissolved by autumn of 1966. In November of that year the band reformed, with two new members, John Lodge and Justin Hayward, joining Mike Pinder, Ray Thomas and Graeme Edge. At this point they were in debt to their record company (British Decca), and agreed to make a rock and roll version of Antonín Dvořák's New World Symphony for the company's new Deram label, working with Peter Knight and various Decca studio musicians known informally as the London Festival Orchestra. The project was soon abandoned, but the Moodys convinced Knight to collaborate with the band to record an album of the own original material. That album was Days Of Future Passed, which rose to the #27 spot on the British charts (and five years later made the top 5 on the US album charts). The album was divided into several suites, each representing a particular time of day, with Knight's orchestral compositions linking the various songs together. The first single from the album was a severely (and somewhat sloppily) edited version of Nights In White Satin, issued in January of 1968. The record stiffed, but was reissued in a longer form in 1972, when it became an international hit.
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: One For John Gee
Source: CD: This Was (bonus track)
Writer(s): Mick Abrahams
Ian Anderson, in his liner notes to the remastered version of Jethro Tull's 1968 debut album, This Was, credits BBC disc jockey John Peel and Marquee Club manager John Gee for their help in gaining an audience for the band in their early days. While making This Was the band recorded a tribute track, One For John Gee, that was not included on the original LP but is now available as a CD bonus track. The short instrumental was written by the band's original guitarist, Mick Abrahams, who left the group shortly after the release of This Was to form his own band, Blodwyn Pig.
Artist: Fleetwood Mac
Title: Oh Well
Source: Mono LP: The Big Ball (originally released on LP: Then Play On)
Writer(s): Peter Green
Label: Warner Brothers (original label: Reprise)
Fleetwood Mac had already established themselves as one of Britain's top up-and-coming blues bands by the time Then Play On was released in 1969. The band had just landed a deal in the US with Reprise, and Then Play On was their American debut LP. At the same time the album was released in the UK, a new non-LP single, Oh Well, appeared as well. The song was a top pick on Radio Luxembourg, the only non-BBC English language top 40 station still operating in Europe in 1969 (not counting the American Forces Network, which was only a top 40 station for an hour or two a day), and Oh Well soon shot all the way to the # 2 spot on the British charts. Meanwhile the US version of Then Play On (which had originally been issued with pretty much the same song lineup as the British version) was recalled, and a new version with Oh Well added to it was issued in its place. The song itself has two distinct parts: a fast blues-rocker sung by lead guitarist Peter Green lasting about two minutes, and a slow moody instrumental that runs about seven minutes. The original UK single featured about a minute's worth of part two tacked on to the end of the A side (with a fadeout ending), while the B side had the entire part two on it. Both sides of the single were added to the US version of the LP, which resulted in the first minute of part two repeating itself on the album.
Title: John Barleycorn
Source: CD: Smiling Phases (originally released on LP: John Barleycorn Must Die)
Label: Island (original label: United Artists)
Following the breakup of Blind Faith in late 1969, Steve Winwood began work on what was to be his first solo LP. After completing one track on which he played all the instruments himself, Winwood decided to ask former Traffic drummer Jim Capaldi to help him out with the project. After the second track was completed, Winwood invited yet another former Traffic member, Chris Wood, to add woodwinds. It soon became obvious that what they were working on was, in fact, a new Traffic album, which came to be called John Barleycorn Must Die. In addition to the blues/R&B tinged rock that the group was already well known for, the new album incorporated elements from traditional British folk music, which was enjoying a renaissance thanks to groups such as Fairport Convention and the Pentangle. The best example of this new direction was the title track of the album itself, which traces its origins back to the days when England was more agrarian in nature.
Source: LP: The Pentangle
Once in a while an album comes along that is so consistently good that it's impossible to single out one specific track for airplay. Such is the case with the debut Pentangle album from 1968. The group combined the talents of guitarists John Renbourne and Bert Jansch, who were both already well-established among the British coffee-house crowd, as was
vocalist Jacqui McShea. They were joined by bassist Terry Cox and drummer Danny Thompson, both of whom came from a jazz background. As a group, the Pentangle had more talent than nearly any band in history from any genre, yet never succumbed to the clash of egos that characterize most supergroups. Enjoy all seven minutes of Pentangling from their 1968 debut LP.
Title: The Fountain Of Salmacis
Source: Canadian import CD: Nursery Cryme
Label: Atlantic (original label: Charisma)
Genesis' original guitarist, Anthony Phillips, left the group following their second LP, Trespass, in 1970. This almost caused the band to break up, but ultimately resulted in a revised lineup consisting of Peter Gabriel (vocals), Tony Banks (keyboards), and Mike Rutherford (bass), along with new members Steve Hackett (guitar) and Phil Collins (drums). Early in 1971 the five got to work on a new album, which eventually came to be called Nursery Cryme. Although the album was not a huge seller in their native England, it found enough of a following in European nations such as Belgium to allow the band to continue on. The Fountain Of Salmacis, the album's closing track, was inspired by the story of a water nymph who becomes a hermaphodite after bathing in cursed water (hey, blame the ancient Greeks for that story).
Artist: Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Title: Brain Salad Surgery
Source: European import 7" 33 1/3 RPM one-sided EP (on clear vinyl yet!) (originally released in UK as flexi-disc magazine insert)
Label: BMG (original label NME)
Sometimes things don't go quite as planned. In 1973 Emerson, Lake & Palmer set out to make their fourth studio LP. They decided to call it Brain Salad Surgery, and recorded a song of the same name to use as a title track. Then came Karn Evil 9, a massive three-part piece running nearly 30 minutes in length that became the album's showpiece. That left very little room for other tunes, and the title track itself was cut from the song lineup. That wasn't the end of the story, however. Around the same time the album was released, the song appeared as a one-sided flexi-disc insert in the latest issue of New Music Express, a British trade magazine. The following year it was released as a promotional single (with Still...You Turn Me On as a B side) to US radio stations on the Atlantic label. The song did not get an official release, however, until 1977, when it appeared on the album Works, volume 2, and as the B side of Fanfare Of The Common Man.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: No Quarter
Source: CD: Houses Of The Holy
Recorded in 1972, No Quarter was first released on the fifth Led Zeppelin album, Houses Of The Holy, and remained a part of the band's concert repertoire throughout their existence. The song is a masterpiece of recording technology, showing just how well-versed the band had become in the studio by that time. The title of the song comes from the military phrase "No quarter asked, none given" (don't ask a foe for mercy, nor grant mercy to a fallen enemy), with several references to the concept appearing in the lyrics throughout the song.