1971, part 2: Progressive Music

The first article in the series summarizing progressive music in 1971 focused on some of the scene’s established names, including King Crimson, Yes, Genesis and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. In this article we feature additional well-known, and some lesser-known progressive artists.

The Moody Blues – Every Good Boy Deserves Favour

The first is The Moody Blues, who in July 1971 released their seventh album Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. Musicians reading this may recall their early music lessons that used the album’s title as an easy way to remember the musical notes that form the lines of the treble clef: EGBDF (Every Good Boy Deserves Favour).

Justin Hayward summarized the album: “It is a kind of a searching, seeking record. It was made at a time of tremendous success for us, and that brought on all of the feelings of guilt, inadequacy and self-doubt that accompany that kind of success. It’s a bittersweet record that pointed the direction of the next album which was the full stop.”

The band enjoyed great popularity that year following their previous year’s hit Question, US tours and performance at the Isle of Wight festival. Every Good Boy Deserves Favour climbed to the top of the UK album chart in August 1971, topping a number of big sellers from Simon and Garfunkel, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.

Top 20 Albums Record Mirror August 1971

Unlike the cover art of their other albums, this time the band had a firm idea of what they wanted. Usually they left it to Phil Travers to conceptualize the art. The artist talked about the typical process of coming up with the album art: “At the first meeting we would listen to the soundtrack together and discuss the themes and ideas behind the album. It was then left to me to produce a pencil rough which was then discussed further. Eventually a consensus would be reached and the painting would begin in earnest. Time always was of the essence, and many times I was working all day and all night to meet the printer’s deadline. But I have to say it was greatly fulfilling and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour inside gatefold

You can read more about Phil Travers’ art on The Moody Blues album covers here:

My favorite song on the album is Mike Pinder’s album closer My Song, featuring a complex, lengthy instrumental. This is one of the group’s highest musical achievements in my opinion, the music sounding like a classical tone poem at times.

In the studio Pinder asked that his voice sound like being outside the world, looking down on it. Engineer Derek Varnals asked “As if you were on a spacewalk in your space suit?” Pinder replied “Exactly. Do it so you can hear me breathing, but make it sound really close and claustrophobic.” Assistant engineer Dave Baker came up with the idea of putting a large carton on Pinder’s head, into which Varnals carefully placed a small microphone, making sure it didn’t touch either the box or the singer. Varnals: “I then filtered the signal to make it sound like a transmission from space. We were trying to create something serious, but everyone was laughing hysterically—everyone except Mike, who was the only person who couldn’t see what we were seeing: a quite Monty Python–like image of someone standing perfectly still with a box covering his head. It eventually ended up sounding a bit like Darth Vader, but this was several years before Star Wars was made.”

The Moody Blues, 1971

Album credits:

Justin Hayward – vocals, guitars, sitar

John Lodge – vocals, bass, cello

Ray Thomas – vocals, flute, tambourine, oboe, woodwinds, harmonica

Graeme Edge – drums, percussion

Mike Pinder – vocals, Mellotron, harpsichord, Hammond organ, piano, celesta, Moog synthesizer

Traffic – The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys

Another band with roots in late 1960s psychedelia is Traffic, who in November 1971 released the album The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. This is my favorite but sadly short-lived lineup of the band with the core trio of Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood supplemented by Ric Grech on bass, Jim Gordon on drums and Rebop Kwaku Baah on percussion.

Traffic, 1971

The crown achievement of the album is its title track, and here is the background story. You may remember actor Michael J. Pollard, who was Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actor in one of my favorite films, Bonnie and Clyde. Pollard’s role as C.W. Moss, the getaway driver, is unforgettable. His inability to drive was not only a curious choice for this role, but it also contributed to one of the best scenes in the movie. He parks the car outside a bank, letting the stars handle the robbery and then finds himself stack in the parking place, delaying the robbers’ escape.

Michael J. Pollard, on the right, on the set of Bonnie and Clyde

But I digress, this is a music blog. Pollard was a friend to many rock musicians, one of them Jim Capaldi, who was planning to make a movie called Nevertheless with Pollard. He wrote about Pollard in his book: “Pollard and I would sit around writing lyrics all day, talking about Bob Dylan and the Band, thinking up ridiculous plots for the movie. Before I left Morocco, Pollard wrote in my book ‘The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.’ For me, it summed him up. He had this tremendous rebel attitude. He walked around in his cowboy boots, his leather jacket. At the time he was a heavy little dude. It seemed to sum up all the people of that generation who were just rebels. The ‘Low Spark,’ for me, was the spirit, high-spirited. You know, standing on a street corner. The low rider. The ‘Low Spark’ meaning that strong undercurrent at the street level.”

Album credits:

Steve Winwood – lead vocals, guitar, piano, organ

Jim Capaldi – lead vocals, percussion, backing vocals

Chris Wood – saxophone, flute

Ric Grech – bass, violin

Jim Gordon – drums

Rebop Kwaku Baah – percussion

Renaissance – Illusion

Let us move on to a number of bands that are some of my favorite from that period, although they have not enjoyed the same level of success as the first two covered so far.

The first is Renaissance, a band that would go on to release some of my favorite symphonic rock albums in the 1970s. In 1971 they released a transitional album called Illusion, the last before the band recruited Annie Haslam. The album was recorded during a tumultuous time for the band, with members leaving and joining the group, until eventually all original members left. This track was composed by new recruit Michael Dunford who was also the link to the classic Renaissance lineup.

The album was not successful on its release, and was re-released later in the decade after the original members reformed as ‘Illusion’ and released a new album.

Album cover by Paul Whitehead, known for his painting for the classic Genesis albums Trespass, Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot.

Renaissance, 1971 lineup

Album credits:

Jane Relf – lead vocals, backing vocals, percussion

Keith Relf – guitars, lead vocals, backing vocals

John Hawken – keyboards

Louis Cennamo – bass

Jim McCarty – drums, percussion, lead vocals, backing vocals

Mr. Pine is an excellent track on this album. Some parts of this track were used on the fantastic “Running Hard” song by the future Renaissance lineup on the album Turn of the Cards in 1974.

Curved Air – Second Album

Another band with a front woman is Curved Air, who in September 1971 released their second album, aptly titled “Second Album”. With two very different composers in the band, Darryl Way and Francis Monkman, the album is split between the two with side one all composed by Way and side two owned by Monkman. This release made it to number 11 in the charts and included their sole charting single “Back Street Luv”.

The band’s progressive rock leanings were evident on the track Piece of Mind. Francis Monkman said this was his first attempt at composing something more extended than a ‘song’. Singer Sonja Kristina on the song: “We were doing quite complex music in the show, as we were doing Piece of Mind which Francis Monkman had written. It is a fantastic piece with lots and lots of musical changes and beautiful words that he wrote.”

Album credits:

Sonja Kristina – lead vocals

Darryl Way – violin, backing vocals, piano

Francis Monkman – guitars, keyboards, VCS3 synthesizer

Ian Eyre – bass guitar

Florian Pilkington-Miksa – drums

Strawbs – From the Witchwood

Progressive music bands come from many different sides of the music spectrum. In this review alone we have artists who came from rhythm and blues, psychedelia and classical backgrounds. Time now for a band who came from British folk and moved towards progressive rock in the early 1970s. We are talking about Strawbs, who in July 1971 released the album From the Witchwood.

The album features the fantastic keyboard playing of Rick Wakeman who was a full member of the band at the time, although this was their only studio album that he played on. While the album has lovely acoustic interludes in the best tradition of Strawbs, it is markedly more rock oriented than anything the band attempted beforehand, and Rick Wakeman’s contributions give it that symphonic layer that made the album a favorite within progressive rock fans. A good example is The Shepherd’s Song, a great combination of acoustic guitars with virtuosic piano runs and Mellotron textures. Band founder Dave Cousins: “The instrumental sections over Mellotron strings were inspired by the mariachi trumpets on Love’s Alone Again Or, and were played by Rick on a prototype Moog synthesizer that was kept in the studio. It was one of the first times that a Moog was used for this purpose on a record, and it encouraged Rick towards his multi-keyboard setup.” As progressive as the album was compared to the band’s previous records, Wakeman was already in a much more ambitious musical mind set than the rest of the band. Cousins: “He was great fun on stage and not at all difficult to control. He was more difficult in the studio when he didn’t like particular songs. It was also difficult to incorporate his own material into our own as it had so many chords – especially for me!”

My favorite track on this album is The Hangman and the Papist. Dave Cousins on the song and a curious use of a handy man tool at Top of the Pops: “The most important song on the album is The Hangman and the Papist. It’s written about two brothers who grew up on opposite sides of the religious fence, and it related to the outbreak of the troubles in Northern Ireland. One of  the brothers grows up as a Catholic and the other as a Protestant, which is an exact parallel of my own life: I’m a Catholic and my brother’s a Protestant, due to the fact that my mother married again after my dad died when I was  eight months old. We were booked to play the song on the first album spot on Top of the Pops, and it undoubtedly exposed the band to a much bigger audience. The only negative was that Rick was spotted playing the organ with a paint roller, but that’s our Rick!” turn to the 2:57 mark on that clip for a shot of that original use of a paint roller.

Album credits:

Dave Cousins – lead vocals, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, dulcimer, banjo, recorder

Tony Hooper – lead vocals, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, autoharp, tambourine

Rick Wakeman – piano, organ, celeste, mellotron, Moog synthesizer, clavinet, harpsichord

John Ford – lead vocals, backing vocals, bass guitar

Richard Hudson – lead vocals, backing vocals, drums, sitar

Wishbone Ash – Pilgrimage

The next band to release a great album in 1971 is Wishbone Ash. The band used to jam during sound checks with Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore when the two bands shared bills at various clubs. Blackmore was impressed by the upcoming band and helped them land a recording deal with MCA.

In September 1971 the band released their second album Pilgrimage. Guitarist Andy Powell on the recording of the album: “Pilgrimage was pretty much us just going into a studio with a great engineer and producer and playing. It was essentially our stage set. That was Pilgrimage. I believe it was recorded and mixed in a very short time – 10 days maybe. We were getting more experienced at recording.”

The twin guitar work of Powell and Ted Turner are the staple of this band. Powell talked about the division of the guitar parts in the band: “I tended to do the more frenetic stuff like ‘Sometime World’ and ‘Vas Dis’, whereas Ted excelled on the bluesier things like the opening to ‘The Pilgrim’.”

Wishbone Ash, early 1970s

Album credits:

Andy Powell – guitar, vocals

Ted Turner – guitar, vocals

Martin Turner – bass, vocals

Steve Upton – drums

Here is The Pilgrim, an excellent track from the album. A song in two parts, starting with a pastoral guitar melody and switching to a rocking odd time number. The guitar work between Andy Powell and Ted Turner is fantastic, but also pay attention to Martin Turner on bass and Steve Upton on drums.

Hawkwind – X In Search of Space

Next we have a couple of excellent space rock albums by two of the best bands in the genre. The first is, of course, Hawkwind and their classic album X In Search of Space, released in October of 1971. This was Nik Turner’s first lead singing part with the band. He tells the story: “When I arrived in the studio to record the album In Search of Space, bassist Dave Anderson had this riff — though Dave Brock ended up taking credit for it. Dave said: ‘Have you got any lyrics for it?’ and I thought about it. I had these lyrics, which I written as a poem, and they fit the riff. So I put the words to the song, and when we were recording it, I asked: ‘Who’s going to sing it?’ Everybody said, ‘Well, you.’ I said: ‘Well, I’m not a singer. I don’t sing.’ They said: ‘Here’s the microphone,’ so that was my introduction to singing, really.”

Lets focus on the artist behind the album cover. Barney Bubbles, nee Colin Fulcher, started his visual art career as a light show operator in London’s mid-1960s thriving clubs such as The Roundhouse, Middle Earth, The Electric Cinema & The Arts Lab. He got his nickname for the use of colored liquid bubbles trapped between glass plates, rhythmically manipulated in a light beam. With the right music and substances, these light shows were all the rave with club frequenters back then. He started working for underground magazines such as Oz and Friends, which led to him hooking up with Hawkwind. His art for the album cover of X In Search Of Space was the first in many, but his involvement with the image of the band went much farther. That album included a 24-page Hawkwind Log booklet, unheard of at the time in an LP package. Bubbles also conceptualized the bands tour books, posters, choreography props, live visuals and even drum heads. As Nik Turner said, together with Bob Calvert Barney Bubbles was responsible for creating the mythology of the band.

The front cover for X In Search Of Space was the first he created for the band, a cut out gatefold that opened to reveal the shape of a hawk and that expansive log book. No band could be ignored with such a meticulous package of their recorded output. 

Hawkwind X In Search Of Space fold out

Album credits:

Dave Brock – vocals, electric guitar, 6 and 12 string acoustic guitars, harmonica, audio generator

Nik Turner – alto saxophone, flute, vocals, audio generator

Del Dettmar – synthesizer

Dik Mik (Michael Davies) – audio generator

Dave Anderson – bass guitar, electric and acoustic guitars

Terry Ollis – drums, percussion

Here is Master of the Universe, one of the band’s classic tracks, drenched with VCS3 synthesizer sounds, a guitar riff for the ages and Nik Turner’s voice:

Nektar – Journey to the Centre of the Eye

Another band to release a space rock classic album in 1971 is Nektar, with their fantastic debut rock opera Journey to the Centre of the Eye. The album contains 13 tracks, all pieced together to form a 40+ minutes of continuous music, spare the time it took you to flip the LP to side B.

Mick Brockett, a band member responsible for their light show: “It all started with Astronauts’ Nightmare, a standalone piece written a few months after we’d all seen Kubricks’ 2001 in 1970. The ideas stemmed from my lightshow with the Pretty Things for their SF Sorrow, a precursor to the Who’s’ Tommy, both of which were acclaimed ‘Rock Operas’, … so Mo and I had discussed the idea of a ‘Space Opera’ based on the Prophecy piece Odyssey which I’d done a lightshow to in 1969 when we first met.”

Guitarist Roye Albrighton: “The overall concept of the album would be using your mind’s eye to look inside yourself to see the real person within. One of my strongest memories of this album at the time was that it maybe a little too far out for some people. But hey! What the hell. We just went ahead and did what we wanted and threw caution to the wind.”

Album credits:

Roye Albrighton – guitars, vocals

Mick Brockett – liquid lights

Allan “Taff” Freeman – Mellotron, pianos, organ, vocals

Ron Howden – drums, percussion

Derek “Mo” Moore – Mellotron, bass, vocals

Keith Walters – static slides

Here is the track Burn Out My Eyes, a bliss for mellotron lovers:

The progressive music scene of the early 1970s saw many bands and artists who unfortunately did not last beyond one or two albums and are now forgotten to most music fans. We end this review with two lesser known bands who still released very fine albums in 1971.

Marsupilami – Arena

The first is Marsupilami and their album Arena. A great band that unfortunately did not get the recognition they deserve. Named after a comic character by Belgian cartoonist André Franquin, the short-lived band folded after only two albums. The band members’ musical tastes were quite diverse and they listened to albums by Coltrane, Miles Davis, Fairport Convention, McCoy Tyner, Messian, Pharoah Sanders, Soft Machine, Yes and Zappa. This is their second and last album. It was recorded at Tangerine Studios in 1970 and produced by Peter Bardens. Before he joined Camel, Bardens released two albums on Translatlantic Records, the label that also signed Marsupilami.

From the band’s website:

After reading ‘Those about to die’ by Danniel P. Mannix, Leary Hasson teamed up with Bob West, friend, artist and also sometime roadie, to put together the words and music. Arena drew a parallel between the fall of the Roman Empire and the declining Western Civilisation but with hope at the end.


Album credits:

Mike Fouracre – Drums

Fred Hasson – Vocals, harmonica, words and music

Leary Hasson – Keyboards and music

Richard Lathom Hicks – Bass

Dave Laverock – Guitar, vocals, words and music

Jessica Stanley Clarke – Flute and vocals

Paul Dunmall – Tenor and soprano saxes and flute

Here is The Arena, the main track from the album:

Audience – The House On The Hill

One last album, this one by another band that unfortunately vanished from the musical map. The band is Audience, who were signed to Charisma Records and had a Sunday residency at the Marquee club. Bass guitar player Trevor Williams remembers socializing with the rest of the Charisma roster: “We tended to take the piss out of Van Der Graaf Generator members quite a bit because they were a bit deadly serious, but we toured with them very amicably on several occasions. We were much closer to Lindisfarne and Jackson Heights as they both supported us in their early days and they were good lads and a lot of fun.”


In 1971 they released the album The House On The Hill, produced by famed producer Gus Dudgeon and included a string arrangement by Robert Kirby on one of the tracks.

Sleeve design and photography by Hipgnosis based on an original screenplay by Hipgnosis and band member Howard Werth. It is in the style of old Hollywood movies and features Lindsay Korner, Sid Barrett’s girlfriend during the Pink Floyd days. The title song includes the lyrics which inspired the cover art:

As is her sin, yeah, in the house on the hill

She lures travelers into the house on the hill

Enchants them with her charms then she falls on and devours them

And I wouldn’t go near the house on the hill

Album credits:

Howard Werth – electric classical guitar and vocals

Trevor Williams – bass guitar and vocals

Keith Gemmell – tenor saxophone, recorder, clarinet and flute

Tony Connor – drums, percussion and vibes

The title track features a bass line that was nicked from Jimi Hendrix’s Foxy Lady, and the reeds work by Keith Gemmell is fantastic. The song was inspired by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe.

Read the first installment in the article series summarizing progressive music in 1971:

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