Friday, 20 July 2012

Funky Love Leather -The Prog Months

By the first Tuesday of 1975 Funky Love Leathers had all but forgotten, then remembered, then forgotten again the Mexican debacle of the previous year and had found a new and that much more serious music indirection all together, that seriously serious direction being progressive. With two new members joining the fold and newly inspired by the music trend even now starting to collapse around them and now financed by the sale of the lead guitarist Duncan “Rat Lips” Biscuit’s recently deceased uncle’ Ritchie’s fish and chip shop, the band took the monumental decision to shortened their name to the more succinct Funky Love Leather and once more entered Clagging Studios (now equipped with a five track console) to record their new epic prog masterwork to be titled Moebius Fruit Loop. Recorded over two afternoons, a morning and a tea time the finished tunes were beyond their least wild expectations and then some. And for the first time in their history the band found themselves with not just one, but more that one, in fact that more than one being two, record labels interested in releasing their new album. Harvester were the new label of the national restaurant chain Harvesters, keen to expand their business beyond serving up dubious food to the dubious masses and into also releasing cutting edge progressive music. Unfortunately their main proviso to releasing the album was that the band would undertake a tour playing in all ninety seven Harvesters dotted around the country, a gruelling and soul-reducing touring schedule the band balked at instantly and then again a couple of hours later and then the next day after that, right up to the following Wednesday when they signed instead to the Norfolk based Flirtigo label. Flirtigo up to then had only specialised in releasing novelty progressive copy artists such as Haemorrhoids Snakes and Palmhair, (actually better than ELP- well after ten beers or so) Yus, (an inspired amalgamation of Yes’ music with Arthur Mullard style vocals), Kim Krimson (a local Woolworth’s shop girl with a neat cha cha twist to the Crimson classics) Hughie Greenslade (a local singing and whistling dog trainer and talent scout) Jenny Sis, (a glockenspiel playing legend in her own lunchtime who made her own Gabriel inspired stage costumes) and Plinky Plonk Floyd (local ragtime greats). Moebius Fruit Loop was to be the label’s first, and as it turned out only attempt, at releasing original music to the prog hungry public but they had not counted on just how seriously the band now seriously felt about their serious progressive music. The title track, clocking in at over forty seven minutes was the centre piece of the album and as such the band refused point blankedy blank to compromise. They would hear nothing of either editing down the track, or as also suggested cutting the track in two and spreading over the two sides of the album, no siree, not on their watch, we should coacoa. It was either going on side one of the record or not at all. Despite what the cutting engineer said about drastic loss in quality and real concerns that the side would not play at all well and even the most heavy duty stylus would instead and most likely skip all over the place, they band dug their heels in and would seriously countenance no compromise to their seriously serious musical vision. It was a brave and as it turned out utterly foolish stance because the engineer was totally correct and side one of the album was impossible to play and to this day nobody has ever actually heard this unlegendary track in anything other than in murky blurred jittering snatches. But even with only that to go by it was clear the band had finally come good, maybe, possibly, kinda, sort of at least. Unfortunately having pulled out all the stops on side one the band ran out of inspiration and song writing somewhat drastically for the actually playable side two of the album. The fifteen minute cover of Terry Jack’s classic weepy Seasons in The Sun while certainly sounding like it could come off the first two Yes albums on a bad day in approach is actually a poor choice of cover that is steamrollered into the ground by their bombastic and highly charged rendition. This is followed by an ill conceived version of Yes’ classic Yours Is No Disgrace done in the cabaret style of Tony Bennett that could not have possibly seemed like a good idea at the time. Closing the side is their old hit, Your Shoelace Is Untied, now newly drenched in Mellotron and with a guitar solo hastily and blatantly and bloody obviously tacked onto the end to disguise the fact that this was in fact the same version as before.
Inconsequentially the band chose to ignore the problems with the album and concentrate all their efforts in putting together a live show befitting their new progtastic musical direction. Keyboard player Franklin Mint, discovering that his keyboard wizard hero Rick Wakeman was currently taking seventeen keyboards out on the road decided to sell his huge and much beloved collection of commemorative plates of puppies and kittens doing gosh darn cute things and purchase twenty keyboards for their up coming tour with pop sensations The Arrows starting in May at the City Hall in Salisbury. Unfortunately Mint had not realised that Wakeman had seventeen different keyboards and merrily ignorant of this possibly important factiod went ahead and bought twenty identical electric pianos woefully oblivious to the obvious redundancy of this ludicrous move. And yet even this was only the tip of the -musical instruments causing arguments within the band- iceberg since the rest of the band, besides drummer Bruff Billford, were locked in a spiralling competition as to who had the best double neck guitar. An argument that had descended into simmering resentment after rhythm guitarist Eric Shone’s arrival at rehearsals sporting his newly purchased triple neck guitar. Despite and in spite of the sullen and half hearted rehearsals the band’s first show was by a few accounts an artistic triumph, storming through the forty seven minute Moebius Fruit Loop like they were sat down for a hearty meal consisting of lambchops lie down on broadway with brain salad surgery washed down with tankards of topographic oceans, only losing their way three times during the lengthy musical epic. Unfortunately the young female audience unaware of the musical greatness unfolding before their teenybopper eyes were less than impressed in their impressedness and the band were hastily replaced by Blackfoot Sue for the remaining dates.
Three weeks later the album was released to little acclaim, the few reviews all saying the title track was unlistenable but not in anyway as a critical judgement but purely as a practical pressing problem. Despondent and barely on speaking terms the band took to communicating instead using semaphore for a few weeks before realising that since none of them knew semaphore they had in fact just been waving flags incoherently at each other. Just as it seems that it is all over for the band they are given the unexpected news that have been given a spot supporting the legendary Van Der Graaf Generator on November the first at the Great Hall in Kendleston. Guitarist Duncan “Rat Lips” Biscuit had gone to ground and could not be contacted so they reluctantly went ahead and rehearsed for this once in a lunchtime opportunity without him. Then out of the blue two days before the gig the errant Biscuit contacted them to say he would indeed be playing and would meet them at the venue. Little did they realise that he had over the last few months become derangedly obsessed with out doing the others in the guitar stakes and had in fact spent every penny of his remaining inheritance having a decuple necked guitar custom built.
That he had to now wear four foot high stilts inside custom made seven foot long flared trousers just to enable him to handle such a preposterously unwieldy instrument seemed of little concern to the guitarist. In fact, that he would now tower over the rest of the band on stage was a source of much open faced smugness at causing such constinated consternation in his fellow band members. But such was his ego driven fragile mental state that when it is pointed out that he could only reach the top three of the ten necks on his guitar so really what is the point, this only served to make him even more determined to make his point and out shine them all. Ten seconds into their first number, with his guitar turned up to full volume, the instrument started to feed back on itself, an ominous howl filled the venue drowning out the other three guitarists while the drummer and keyboard player manfully soldier on. After five minutes of this unholy cacophony the lead singer removed his own double neck guitar and threw it up at Biscuit, catching the wild eyes musician squarely in the chest, nipping his left ear lobe clean off and sending him toppling to the stage, his ten necked guitar shattering into thirty seven pieces with an almighty noise like the gates of hell opening. The other two guitarist then removed but did not unplug their instruments and set about reigning down blow after blow with them on the dazed but unrepentant Biscuit only adding to the bizarre torturous noises emanating from the stage. After ten minutes the sound engineer pulled the plug and the venue was finally plunged into blessed silence. The audience, serious grey coated long hair young men, sitting cross legged, heads down in concentrated listening mode through out all this, thinking they have just experienced a sort of unholy alliance between Faust, Henry Cow and Magma playing a version of Peter Hammill’s Gog/Magog (In Bromine Chambers) gave the band a much undeserved standing ovation. But for Funky Love Leather, dazed and confused by what had just happened this truly was the end. Two weeks later the now one lobed Biscuit ran off with the master tapes of Moebius Fruit Loop and is never seen of heard of again. Franklin Mint also leaves the band to become Peter Skellern’s touring keyboard player and the remaining four members, shaken but not stirred but all that has happened decide to jump on the next band wagon to handily come along and form a four piece power trio The Love Leathers, their new mission to Rawk….but that is a story for another time…possibly quarter to three or ten past eight...we will have to see….until them I will leave you with this thought….. (I will point out here that leaving you with this thought only works for the telepathic amongst you)

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