Forever More

TrackAlbum
Back In The States AgainYours
Beautiful AfternoonYours
8 O'’Clock & All's WellYours
Get Behind Me SatanWords On Black Plastic
O’'Brien'’s Last StandWords On Black Plastic
Put Your Money On A PonyWords On Black Plastic
Sylvester’'s Last VoyageYours
We SingYours
What A Lovely DayWords On Black Plastic
YoursYours

 

 

Contributor: Peter Viney

I have a homemade compilation CD of late 60s major popular songs. Marrakesh Express, Waterloo Sunset, Days, Whiter Shade Of Pale, Hey Jude, Bad Moon Rising, 25 Or 6 To 4, In The Summertime, Crimson & Clover, Uncle John’s Band. Solid Gold 60s. Nestling in there is Beautiful Afternoon by Forever More from 1970. You don’t know it? Most people don’t, but insert it in such mega-selling popular company, and you really can’t see the join. Yes, it’s that good. Forever More were that good. As I started Googling to research this, I kept finding references to Forever More and “great lost albums”. It seems that everyone who bought a copy of their two LPs, retained deep affection for their music.

Forever More was a four piece consisting of Alan Gorrie (vocals, bass, piano), Onnie McIntyre, also known as Onnie Mair (guitar, bass, vocals), Stuart Francis (drum, vocals), Mick Travis (guitar, vocals). Alan Gorrie is the main lead vocalist, and Mick Travis sings lead on some of his own compositions, some of which are stylistically different.

Gorrie, McIntyre and Francis had all been in the Scots of St. James, which later became Hopscotch (with Hamish Stuart). Scottish bands had a different training to English ones. English prog bands visiting Scotland around 1970 were wary of Scottish support bands who had the disconcerting habit of running through a set of ten contrasting songs, all drawn from the month’s top forty, and all played well. They were an absolute bastard to follow for bands with fifteen minute renditions of original stuff the audience had never heard before.

Hopscotch made two singles for United Artists, Look At The Lights Go Up, and a cover of Long Black Veil. An original single of Look At The Lights Go Up would cost you £140, but iTunes has it at 99p. It’s a poppier version of Forever More perhaps, but the vocal and bass playing are instantly recognizable. Hopscotch mutated into Forever More, managed by Simon Napier-Bell. That should have been a passport to success. It wasn’t.

Alan Gorrie and Onnie McIntyre went on to form the Average White Band (see Toppermost #134) with Hamish Stuart, and fellow Scots and old friends, Roger Ball and Malcolm “Molly” Duncan from Mogul Thrash (with John Wetton and Jim Litherland), They were known as The Dundee Horns for session work. They had played with Alan Gorrie in Perth years earlier. Malcolm Duncan guests on Yours, playing tenor sax on Good To Me, and also guests on Words On Black Plastic.

Forever More made two albums for RCA, Yours (aka Paint it Yourself) in 1970, and Words On Black Plastic in 1971. Both albums were produced by Ray Singer and Simon Napier-Bell. Singer plays percussion, and Napier-Bell is credited with “sexy brass and string arrangements”. Tracks are often credited to “Sam Hedd” which was a joint name. Yours has two sleeves. The North American one is a valentine’s scrapbook collage, while the UK one is a “paint by numbers” picture. The title “Paint it Yourself” is sometimes applied to the album, though apparently it had been scribbled on the rough as a style instruction to the designer. This is an album you’d want in its entirety. There are two very short folky and funny Mick Travis songs, It’s Home (very much like Maxwell’s Silver Hammer) and the Appalachian styled and comic Mean Pappie Blues. Both are jug band in style, one with kazoo, the other with jaw harp.

They had a spot of bother with misapplied titles as it’s said that “Words On Black Plastic” was also a design instruction, rather than an intended title. Words On Black Plastic tracks are longer, which is a shift from 1970 to 1971 for everyone. An obvious issue with some songs is the added strings and brass weren’t available live.

As with the related Mogul Thrash (the Mogul Thrash song St. Peter from this period is a Gorrie-Wetton co-write), the albums have failed to reach CD. Presumably they are tied up in tangled contracts from the era. The band were in the 1970 British B-film, Permissive about the adventures of a groupie, in which they play themselves. The film features Forever More as themselves, and has extracts from songs from Yours. It was released on DVD in 2010. I was told the film was poor, but rented it anyway. “Poor” is probably the nicest thing anyone has said about the film, which now has cult status as so many off-target 60s films do. Here’s a ten minute extract. We Sing is in the background.

After Forever More, Stuart Francis and Mick Travis joined Glencoe, but Mick departed before the first album. His real name is Mick Strode, and he was in Band of Joy with Robert Plant before Forever More. He’s still recording in France, and his 2011 album Days I Left Behind was described by Onnie McIntyre as “like Forever More’s third album only in hi-def.”

The selections:

Back In The States Again (Mick Travis)
This is a huge anthemic song, and in a world of justice it would have opened their set explosively in American stadiums in front of 60,000 people, maybe that’s what they hoped for. It’s a Travis song, but straight away Alan Gorrie sets his claim to be among the first division of bass playing vocalists, with lead vocal and burbling bass guitar. Great chorus, a middle instrumental break takes off, which you can see would be extended live if they’d ever got to those stadiums … well, of course they did, but with the AWB.

Beautiful Afternoon (Sam Hedd)
See above. If I were producing a fictional movie about the late 60s,and I wanted a new song purporting to be a major hit, I’d take Beautiful Afternoon. Simon Napier-Bell justifies his sexy brass credit with what sounds like tubas or euphoniums. The vocal is yearning, the melody will fix you. I think virtually every time I’ve played it, I’ve pressed replay (I put my LP onto CDR long ago).

8 O’Clock & All’s Well (Sam Hedd)
For the first full minute, this sounds like the AWB. Propulsive bass, choppy rhythm guitar, tremendous layers of percussion … then the horns come in. Lots of vocal yelping too.

Get Behind Me Satan (Alan Gorrie)
Straight away, you’re reminded that Hopscotch covered Long Black Veil, and that these guys were into The Band. This starts out as very Band-like, even the vocal tone is Rick Danko-like, and the lyrics fit too: You know I’m a God-fearin’ man. It’s also 6 minutes 3 seconds, which for Forever More was unusually long. It’s worth it. Alan Gorrie has shifted to piano, and Onnie is playing bass (a useful Band-like shift for live shows).

O’Brien’s Last Stand (Mick Travis, Alan Gorrie)
O’Brien’s Last Stand sees Mick Travis playing slide guitar to great effect, and this time it’s The Rolling Stones with Ry Cooder that comes to mind. Variety is a hallmark of Forever More. The overt Americana feel is at the forefront, both in the music and in the lyrics.

Put Your Money On A Pony (Alan Gorrie)
This one is on Words On Black Plastic and is probably the best-known song and points the way very clearly to the AWB. It’s got it all: lurching rhythm with the drums dragging just a microsecond, upfront bass guitar and exhausted vocal then chiming Beatlesque guitar, electric piano (Alan Gorrie), then a sudden instrumental led break. If you’re into bass guitar, this track is magic.

Sylvester’s Last Voyage (Alan Gorrie)
How do you describe this? Psych-folk? It has a folkie theme, a strong narrative about fishermen and ships foundering, and a fabulous melody. The wash of strings and chorus voices is unexpected, and uncharacteristic for then, though not now. Its placing at the end suits its originality, but also creates a sequence on the album, from the exuberance of Back In The States Again to the central mellowness of Beautiful Afternoon to the chiller air of:

Looking out over the ocean
The wind colder now than it was yesterday
The season is changing and summer
is rushing away.

The story’s result is the sea is my master, and I am Sylvester its slave. The song is definitely a “ballad” in the oldest sense.

We Sing (Sam Hedd)
This is Mick Travis lead vocal, with Alan Gorrie in the middle section. Napier-Bell’s gentle string arrangements are prominent.. The guitar tone is liquid gold. The lyrical nods to candy floss, popcorn, teddy bears, a character called Finnegan are high hippy era. The middle eight is designed to confront and contrast: Wake me when it’s over! Surely this can’t be happening. The past is far away … Then right at the end you get a fiddle-led little bit of hoedown.

What A Lovely Day (Mick Travis, Alan Gorrie)
The soft haunting orchestral introduction lasts virtually two minutes before the voices come in, and the main vocal is at three minutes, half way through. A complicated psych song, theatrical in its scope. It “sounds” much later than it is.

Yours (Alan Gorrie)
The online references call them a Scottish progressive band. This starts off as very AWB with the riff and dominant loud bass guitar, but then goes into a soft soul ballad style, then you get the chorus The contrasts within the song make it sound prog, but what prog song does it all in 2 minutes 19 seconds? Not enough of them, I may add!

 

Mick Strode website

Average White Band website

Forever More biography (Wikipedia)

Although not available on Spotify at the time of writing, you can find some Forever More tracks on Last FM and these are on YouTube: Sylvester’s Last Voyage; Back In The States Again; We Sing; Put Your Money On A Pony; Promises of Spring; Good To Me.

TopperPost #235

2 Comments

  1. Mick Strode
    Jan 15, 2015

    Hi, I am the Mick Strode/Mick Travis referred to in this excellent article. I’m very impressed with its accuracy which is unfortunately not the case with all articles on the web about Forever More. For those who want to find out more about the band there is an excellent book which elaborates a lot more on the band’s history. It’s called Doctor Sonja’s Bitches Brew by Doctor Sonja Strode. Available here or as an ebook on a number of sites.

  2. Scott Schenkel
    Feb 21, 2018

    Very well-worded paean, but words simply cannot explain the mastery evident in these two terribly-overlooked albums. I heartily agree that they should have been successful, beyond most groups at the time, and the fact that they sound perfectly appropriate even today is evidence of their timeless achievement. I could go on, but the main thing is for people to search out these incredible records to hear, for themselves, what most of the world unfortunately missed. (Also – Mick’s comment did not mention it, but he has some fine solo CDs, which are easy to find on his website). All of this music is well worth investigating, so do yourself a favor, folks, and do so!

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