Edgar Broughton Band

TrackAlbum
Call Me A LiarThe Harvest Bag
PoppyLive in Hamburg:
The Fabrik Concert 1973
Evening Over RooftopsEdgar Broughton Band
Gone BlueIn Side Out
It’'s Not YouIn Side Out
Dawn Crept AwayWasa Wasa
Oh You Crazy Boy!Oora
Exhibits From A New Museum / Green LightsOora
Love GangBandages
Out Demons OutRevelations:
Glastonbury Fayre 1971

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Contributor: Ian Ashleigh

It’s difficult to forget the first band you saw live. For me that band was the Edgar Broughton Band, before their decline, at the Paris Theatre on Lower Regent Street in Central London. A friend of my brother was a trainee journalist and we blagged a short ‘interview’ in the dressing room after the gig. I think it was summer 1973 and I’d have been just short of my 14th birthday.

My brother had bought the budget sampler The Harvest Bag in 1971 on which was Call Me A Liar. I don’t know if my brother still has the LP but all these years later the only things I can remember about the album are this one track and the sleeve being a black and white photograph of an actor holding out a bag similar to that which the Chancellor uses on Budget Day, on which was adorned the Harvest label logo. I was listening to Slade, Alice Cooper and the other emerging Glam Rock bands at the time, but this was different, exciting, aural contraband. It was this one song that made me nag to be taken to the gig.

Call Me A Liar was the B side of the single Hotel Room. The single was played by Tony Blackburn as his ‘record of the week’ on its release: Edgar Broughton recalled him saying that “he hated everything that we stood for, but that the single was the best thing he had heard that year”.

Often described as having a vocal style that is Captain Beefheart meets Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Edgar Broughton hails from Warwick. The band formed as the Edgar Broughton Blues Band with Edgar Broughton (guitar, vocals), Vic Unitt (guitar), Arthur Grant (bass, vocals) and Steve Broughton (drums). This was the key line-up on three of the first five albums that form the basis of this post. For the first two albums the band was a power trio without Unitt who had left feeling the band had sold out to psychedelia when it dropped the word Blues from the title. Broughton invited Unitt to re-join prior recording In Side Out having found the power trio format too restrictive. The Harvest albums are now available as a four disc box set The Harvest Years: 1969-1973.

The band was always political, playing free concerts, sometimes from the back of a lorry until they were moved on. The band’s touring attracted some controversy from their series of free concerts at locations such as children’s playgrounds, and from a number of cases of civil disorder occurring at their shows. The most notorious incidents were a show in Redcar at which a fight broke out between audience members and led to violent police intervention. At a show in Keele the audience vandalised the venue using paint given to them by the band. Though the band denied doing anything to incite any of these incidents (in the case of Keele, Edgar Broughton admitted to giving paint to the audience but argued, “we didn’t tell them to do anything with it”), several towns banned the group’s concerts.

With blues roots the band migrated towards psychedelic heavy rock coupled with acoustic tracks.

Wasa Wasa released in 1969 was an experimental psychedelic outing and this is exemplified by the final track Dawn Crept Away. A re-release in 2004 includes an additional five tracks, four of which illustrate the blues roots of the band. Untitled Freak Out recorded in January 1969 is worthy of a listen and I considered including it in place of Dawn Crept Away. These five tracks are omitted from the Harvest compilation. Then came Sing Brother Sing and, although not on the album, the single Apache Drop Out is considered to be the first ‘mash-up’ record; it combined The Shadows’ Apache with Captain Beefheart’s Drop Out Boogie. It was played on the BBC’s Juke Box Jury hosted by David Jacobs to an astonished panel.

By the time Edgar Broughton Band was released in 1971, Vic Unitt had re-joined the band. Poppy appears on this album and was a memorable song from that first gig and one which we tried to recreate with our ‘bedroom band’. The album also features Evening Over Rooftops with its lyrical imagery, Don’t Even Know Which Day It Is which is one of the band’s more readily accessible tracks and House Of Turnabout which became a mainstay of the live set. The album cover is of meat carcasses hanging in an abattoir with a single human hidden within. In 1973, the band released The Fabrik Concert recorded live in Hamburg and because it was the live version of Poppy that struck me back in my mid-teens, I’ve included that live track here.

The original sleeve for the vinyl copies of In Side Out was formed of an interleaved gatefold, one side of which showed countryside scenes, the other town, including Vic Unitt getting out of a Ford Anglia outside Morgan Studios in Willesden which I would regularly see from the back of my Dad’s car. I could happily have included the whole album but restricted myself to the violence of Gone Blue and the leviathan It’s Not You, the latter part of which was a studio jam, or ‘as it came’ as noted on the sleeve notes.

Oora was the band’s fifth album and the last for Harvest Records and was the last with the original line-up. Oh You Crazy Boy! is notable for its lead vocal by Vic Unitt and Exhibits From A New Museum/Green Lights is a combination of two of Broughton’s songs. Green Lights had been performed on its own at the Paris Theatre at that first gig. Vic Unitt left the band again before the album was released.

The sixth album, Bandages, was recorded for NEMS Records in Oslo; Love Gang is included being reminiscent of David Bowie’s Jean Genie.

Out Demons Out were the first three words I wrote when beginning to think about this list. It is an adaptation of The Fugs’ Exorcising The Evil Spirits From The Pentagon and closed the live set for many years with the extended chant. The only question was, which of the four versions to include. There is the original single from 1970 and which reached the top 40, and three live recordings; in Hyde Park July 1970, at Glastonbury in 1971 and the Fabrik Concert 1973. For Edgar Broughton’s rant before the chant extending the song to over 20 minutes, it has to be Glastonbury. As a would-be fan of the band, it was exciting to see these three words painted on the footpath in the park opposite my grandparents’ house in that hotbed of psychedelia that was Kenton, Middlesex in 1971.

Here you have it, close on 80 minutes of some of the best of the psychedelic era that Britain had to offer.

 

Edgar Broughton official website

Edgar Broughton Band biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #241

1 Comment

  1. Peter Viney
    Apr 2, 2014

    Any post-1971 Edgar Broughton is news to me, but I saw the trio line up a few times. The first I thought them a lugubrious blues outfit (and not technically very good at all) and this was when “Evil” was the single, and the first ever single on EMI’s new progressive Harvest label. This means EMI thought they had major talent, or perhaps potential. Then I bumped into them again in 1970 at shows where they were not the focus for going. Edgar and drummer Steve were brothers, and they were famed in the early days for having their mum as a roadie. Against their hairy demonic image, they were likeable, affable lads, and they really did have their mum brewing tea in the dressing room. Later they were famed for having two female roadies, though I have to say they were a band where the first few rows in front of the stage were a totally female-free area … I always noted the difference. Definitely a “lads band” (as I say this was 1970, maybe it changed). Once you’ve chatted, however briefly, to people and liked them, criticism tends to go out of the window, so I enjoyed watching them in 1970. I thought the attitude and image was more enjoyable than the intrinsic music. Looking back, I thought them precursors of punk by several years in that the show wasn’t about technical ability. But I thought Apache Drop Out a lot of fun (and bought it). But I never followed up their later stuff, but I will, as I trust Ian’s ears on this.

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