January 01, 1973
TUCKY BUZZARD TIME WILL BE YOUR DOCTOR: RARE RECORDINGS 1971-1972 Castle Records CMEDD1249
Time Will Be Your Doctor
From their mid-60s incarnation as The End through to a batch of early 70s albums, Stones bassist Bill Wyman masterminded the career of these British rock'n'boogie merchants. Unjustly overlooked to date, their three original LPs - only one of them originally issued in the UK - are now combined on this in-depth retrospective.
Of the pool of acts managed and produced throughout the 1960s and early 1970s by Bill Wyman, TUCKY BUZZARD probably came closest to making the big-time. Emerging from the ashes of '60s stalwarts The End, Buzzard's brand of definitively British Hard Rock and Boogie almost saw them take off in America at a time when many similarly-fashioned UK acts were finding a warmer welcome on the other side of the Atlantic. Sadly it wasn't to be, but at least they left behind five admirable, surprisingly versatile albums, before going their separate ways.
The beginning of Tucky Buzzard is pretty much inseparable from the end of The End. Based around a core of Dave Brown (bass), Colin Giffin (guitar) and Nicky Graham (keyboards), The End had been around since early 1965. In some ways they were the archetypal British '60s group, flitting from one style to another in an ultimately vain attempt to keep up with the big boys. Staring off as a Beatles-influence Beat Boom outfit, by 1966 they were doing the blue-eyed Soul routine with a horns section, go-go dancers and covers of Don Covay and Wilson Pickett material. It was in this guise that they came closest to achieving some kind of stardom: manager Bill Wyman (who'd been in their corner since the days when Giffin and Brown had appeared on a package tour with The Stones as part of Mike Berry's backing band, The Innocents) packed them off to Spain, where their shoulder-length hair and Swinging London threads caused a sensation in a Fascist state still ruled by the iron fist of Generalissimo Franco.
A self-penned single, the contagious Why, reached the Spanish Top 5, but when the band returned to England in the Summer of 1967, the club scene was dead, swallowed alive by the emergence of Psychedelia. With the aid of a fabulous double-sided single, Shades Of Orange b/w Loving Sacred Loving (both sides co-written by Wyman), The End duly reinvented themselves once more as wide-eyed flower children.
It was at this juncture that saxophonist Gordie Smith left. In his place came lead guitarist Terry Taylor, with whom The End had become friendly while in Spain: Terry's band, The Mode, also recorded for the local Sonoplay label. The recruitment of Taylor gave The End a slightly different, more Rock-oriented sound, and in early 1968 they desultorily worked on an album, Introspection, which, in the wake of Shades Of Orange, would surely confirm their Psychedelic credentials when it eventually appeared.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be a longer wait than they could have anticipated. Responsible for handling all of the various Stones': outside projects, the notorious Allen Klein either couldn't or wouldn't see The End as a viable commercial proposition. The album, which featured a cameo appearance on She Said Yeah from Terry's former Mode colleague, singer Jimmy Henderson, had been finished by mid-1968, although Wyman was tied up with sessions for Beggar's Banquet, and wouldn't be able to oversee the mastering until October.
By that point, The End seemed to be on the verge of falling apart: by Christmas 1968, they had lost both Colin Giffin and drummer Hugh Attwooll. The latter was replaced by Paul Francis, previously with former Searcher Tony Jackson's band, while Jimmy Henderson was subsequently brought in to compensate for the departure of Giffin, who immediately recorded an excellent solo single for CBS with the aid of Kenny Lynch. Thus reconstituted, the quintet continued to trade as The End, recording various demos - such titles as Son Of Lightning, Second Glance and North Thames Gas Board were all cut in March/April 1969. In terms of releasing new product, however, they were hamstrung until Klein chose to give their label, Decca, the go-ahead to issue the Introspection album.
Introspection finally limped out in December 1969 - just at the point when The Stones' contract with Decca lapsed. Unfortunately, the moment had long passed: Psychedelia had withered and died, and The End's candy-coated lysergic visions and dreamscapes must have sounded like a relic from a bygone age in a month that saw the UK singles chart topped by Sugar Sugar and Rolf Harris's execrable Two Little Boys. Not that the new line-up of The End would have been that bothered anyway: by that stage their own sound bore little resemblance to Introspection either. That same month, they visited Olympic Studios in Barnes, where Bill Wyman and engineer George Chkiantz worked on mixes of a handful of new tracks, including Time Will Be Your Doctor and My Friend.
With Introspection now out of the way, it seemed as if, finally, The End could concentrate on the present and future rather than the past. In the opening months of 1970, they returned to Olympic on a number of occasions, working on further new songs like Stainless Steel Lady and the Dave Brown/Terry Taylor composition Sally Shotgun. By the middle of March, enough new material had been amassed for Wyman to compile the new End album. Bill's proposed track listing and running order was as follows:
Side One: She's Meat - He's Alright/So Free - Time Will Be Your Doctor - Sally Shotgun - Gu Gu Gu - For Eleanor.
Side Two: Stainless Steel Lady - Son Of Lightning - Theme Of Lightning - Turn On Waterstone - Second Glance - Mistress Bean.
But a recording deal continued to elude them, and the album was destined to remain in the can (though the majority of these tracks were belatedly issued in 1999 on the limited edition vinyl-only album The Last Word). While Wyman attempted to place this and other new recordings - including a cover of Leon Russell's Pisces Apple Lady, cut in April 1970 - The End issued a Spanish-only single under the pseudonym of Polos Opuestos (Opposite Poles). In truth, the alias was probably a good idea. The flip, a group instrumental entitled Smartypants, was pretty strong, but the A-side was a Spanish-language version of Mungo Jerry's recently-issued In The Summertime (El En Verano), and clearly an attempt at scoring a cheap Continental hit by dubious virtue of a quick-off-the-mark cover version.
Nobody's too certain, but it seems to have been around this juncture that the band finally ditched their name - after all, The End was the kind of sharp, gimmicky moniker whose dated definite article meant that it was already indelibly associated with the '60s. Certainly, by the end of 1970 (possibly due to the impetus afforded by Bill managing to find them a deal with the Capitol label), The End had morphed into Tucky Buzzard.
Their eponymous debut album, Tucky Buzzard, duly emerged in the Summer of 1971, although, presumably due to Capitol's status as an America-based label, it failed to appear in Britain. Primarily pulled together from the last eighteen months or so of The End/Buzzard's studio-based activities, half of the album's ten tracks had been recorded as far back as 1969 (indeed, so lengthy was the album's gestation period that Chris Johnston had come in on drums midway through, with Paul Francis subsequently turning up in the fatuously-named Fuzzy Duck). Bill's fellow Stone, guitarist Mick Taylor, added fills and a typically expressive solo to My Friend, while The Stones' regular horns section of Bobby Keys (sax) and Jim Price (trumpet) appeared on a brace of newly-recorded tracks. Nicky Graham's Whiskey Eyes (Taylor is also rumoured to be on this track, presumably on the basis of some guitar work that strongly resembles his contributions to Goat's Head Soup) and the Terry Taylor/Jim Henderson collaboration Rolling Cloud. Both of these were recorded at the end of January 1971, as was Ace The Face.
Perhaps due to its lengthy genesis, Tucky Buzzard was a fine example of the kind of album that the best British bands were making at the turn of the decade. Welding thoughtful arrangements and fine musicianship to some highly engaging melodies, tracks like My Friend and album opener Time Will Be Your Doctor were pitched midway between the more pastoral Psychedelic sound of yore and the new, heavier Prog-Rock style. Most tracks were kitted out with impressive vocal harmonies, with the band possessing three strong lead singers: Sally Shotgun and My Friend were both handled by Dave Brown, Nick Graham (NB: despite what various reference books and internet sites have suggested, keyboardist Graham was not the Nicky Graham who played bass with Skin Alley and Atomic Rooster) sang lead on Time Will Be Your Doctor and Gu Gu Gu, while Jim Henderson was the featured vocalist on the remainder of the material.
Having toured mainly in Europe up to that point, Tucky Buzzard promoted the album with a trip to America (where Pisces Apple Lady b/w Time Will Be Your Doctor had been issued as a single) in September 1971, playing a series of gigs that saw them support the likes of Grand Funk Railroad, Fleetwood Mac, Uriah Heep and Deep Purple. They even played a few dates at the legendary Whiskey-A-Go-Go in Los Angeles, though their debut at the venue had a slightly surreal, almost Spinal Tap-ish feel to it: Terry Taylor later recalled that, "...at the moment we started playing, the doorman had a heart attack and died." Black Sabbath, who were in Florida at the time, flew in to attend a predictably riotous post-gig party.
Also in the audience at the opening night at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go was Bill Wyman. A couple of days after the show, Bill met with Capitol to discuss the second Tucky Buzzard album, which, with the exception of (She's A) Striker and Heartbreaker'(both cut at Olympic back in April 1971 these two tracks had become the first British release by Tucky Buzzard when issued as a single in June), had been recorded during an idyllic week at the Chateau d'Heuroville in Paris in August. A photograph of Bill taking an al fresco leak (as shown on the original back sleeve) was the inspiration behind the album title Warm Slash, which became the band's first LP to gain a UK release in February 1972 (although nowhere near as pronounced as the hold-ups that had bedevilled The End, there was still a slight delay in the product appearing in Britain - the album had been issued in the US some three months earlier).
In some ways the lean, metallic sound of Warm Slash represented something of a stylistic step sideways from Tucky Buzzard, clearly reflecting the omnipotent influence of Led Zeppelin on British Rock musicians of the period. Jimmy Henderson provided his best Robert Plant banshee wail on Burnin' and, in particular, the excellent Sky Balloon, while other successes on the album included the menacing, hard-riffing Fill You In, the equally driving Which Way, When For Why and an atypical Goundhogs-style Blues-Rock shuffle, Need Your Love.
Warm Slash was duly promoted with a series of live dates across the pond as, like so many early '70s British Rock bands, Buzzard threatened to gain a greater audience in America than at home. However, their next destination was mainland Europe. In June 1972, they appeared alongside Deep Purple on an edition of the long-running German TV pop show, Beat Club, before moving on to Spain to record what can be described as The Great Lost Tucky Buzzard album. With Bill Wyman touring with The Stones, Coming On Again was recorded at the Hispavox Studios in Madrid with the aid of producer Rafael Trabuccelli, noted classical-cum-pop conductor Waldo de los Rios and the Madrid Philharmonic Orchestra, who played the sessions in full evening dress! Also helping out on the album were guitarist Howard 'Lennie' Neldrett, who'd contributed to The End's version of Morning Dew a few years earlier, and fellow exile Hugh Attwool, who, subsequent to leaving The End in late 1968, had been living and working in Spain. However, the principal drummer on the album was Paul Francis, who'd recently rejoined the band.
Despite its relatively meagre running time - a shade over thirty minutes - Coming On Again has some claim to being the most intriguing album to bear the Tucky Buzzard name. Largely eschewing the Hard Rock sound of Warm Slash, the band re-embraced the sound of their debut set, with some lovely choral harmonies and an increased sense of melodic ambition that, allied to some superb baroque arrangements from the gifted de los Rios (who tragically committed suicide in 1977), made for a fascinating one-off experiment in Buzzard's catalogue.
The clear highlight of the album was the highly ambitious cleverly-assembled title track suite, deftly incorporating such songs as the sumptuous Here I Am and the instrumental theme For Maryse, a spellbinding duet for orchestra and Terry Taylor's acoustic guitar. The suite took up the whole of Side One of the original vinyl pressing, but Buzzard's rediscovered lightness of touch was also evident on Side Two via mature ballads like Lady Fair and, in particular, the ethereal You're All Alone, which once again showcased Taylor's dextrous acoustic guitar work as well as a lovely, Colin Blunstone-style vocal from Jimmy Henderson. An edited version of You're All Alone was concurrently issued as a single, but unfortunately both it and Coming On Again would only be released in Spain (by the Hispavox label, who'd also been responsible for issuing the Polos Opuestos single a couple of years earlier), thereby condemning them to a relatively small potential audience. For years, Coming On Again has been something of a well-kept secret: more recently, however, its considerable charms are being belatedly investigated by a new generation of collector, particularly after the bootlegging of You're All Alone on an under-the-counter compilation of late 60s/early 70s European Pop obscurities.
By the end of 1972, Tucky Buzzard had signed with Deep Purple's vanity label, the EMI-administered Purple. Two further albums emerged in Alright On The Night and Buzzard, but the band split in the mid-70s without ever quite making the leap from well-respected circuit band to Rock superstars.
Liner Notes: by David Wells
Full track listing