While this may be news to Agent 007 lovers, there's more than one Brit named Bond. While that fictional film character with the first name of James may garner the bigger audience, it is another Bond-Graham Bond-who has left a long-lasting impression with his influential music. Although many consider Alexis Korner as the father of the British blues/R&B movement, Graham Bond also deserves credit for its development. "Loud, hypnotic and neurotic" is how Melody Maker reporter Chris Welch once described Bond's music. "It wails, screams and tears at the senses for minutes on end, demanding either complete attention or complete rejection."
Bond was not afraid to experiment, introducing the Mellotron to British audiences as well as being one of the first on the scene to use the Hammond organ. His approach to music was also unconventional, as he boldly mixed elements of jazz into his brand of R&B, a feat unheard of at the time. "It doesn't have to be a 12-bar. Blues can be 9 1/2 bars, or 14 bars, and in any time," he once explained to Melody Maker. "You can play so many different sequences, or no sequences at all. Talk about 'Free Form'-there is a tremendous parallel with the blues, because it's so free. We are playing the blues of today and I can get away with playing practically anything. There is no reason at all why you can't take the blues and put the technique of modern jazz on it."
Graham John Clifton Bond (b. October 28, 1937, Romford, Essex; d. May 8, 1974, London, U.K.) was born a chronic asthmatic and, as a child, suffered constantly from his breathing impairment. He started playing the piano at an early age. "I told my parents I wanted to play organ and they were all going to come up to the Albert Hall to watch me play," he later recalled to Melody Maker. "So they got me a piano and I studied from the age of seven until I was 14." He later joined the school orchestra and became proficient on the cello and oboe. Although classically trained, he developed great interest in Dixieland jazz in the early 1950s, and by 1953 he had joined some school friends in forming the Modernnaires.
At age 14, Bond took up kharma yoga (also known as "breathing yoga"), which led to his interest in the saxophone. "When I was 15 I decided to form a jazz band and because I had chronic asthma, I took up alto sax to help strengthen my lungs and breathing. Now I've got very strong lungs. My father bought me an alto, and for weeks before that I practiced fingering with the stick with the notes cut in. I've got an unconventional approach to saxophone. I never bothered with chords-I just believe in blowing!" However, as the jazz scene was gradually changing, Bond also became interested in bebop. He soon met drummer Terry Lovelock and, along with pianist Colin Wild, formed the Terry Graham Trio.
Although the group was a modern jazz outfit, they had to compromise their style and sound because the public craved dance music. With gigs hard to come by, Bond worked days as a refrigerator salesman. But, he was eager to go a step further musically and so began jamming in the London jazz scene. He met with some resistance, however, as audiences and even most musicians found his sax playing far too avant-garde for their tastes.
By mid-1957, Bond found himself working as a cocktail pianist on the Spanish isle of Majorca. Even though he initially enjoyed the Mediterranean lifestyle, he returned to England less than a year later, where he teamed up with Lovelock and various musicians as the Terry Graham Quartet.
An important meeting took place late in March 1960. Tenor player Dick Heckstall-Smith (b. September 26, 1934; Ludlow, Shropshire, U.K.) was already a pro jazz musician with lots of experience when the two met at one of Heckstall-Smith's gigs. Bond asked to sit in and was quite impressive with his alto playing, a significant development since his earlier failings on the scene. That same month he married a pianist named Diane Eton and by May had joined the Goudie Charles Quintet, playing London's suburbs. The band expanded to a sextet with Goudie on guitar, Milton James on tenor sax, Gordon Bellamy on trombone, Roy Surman on bass and Art Terry on drums, in addition to Bond on alto sax.
Bond stayed with the group for a year until he became involved with Don Rendell and his quartet through former bandmate Lovelock. Lovelock, now Rendell's drummer on leave, had advised the tenor player to check out his friend. Bond became a member of the band, or as Melody Maker wrote in May 1961: "The Don Rendell Four Become Five." Bass player Tony Archer and pianist John Burch comprised the rest of the quintet. In early June, just two weeks before recording their debut album for the U.S. label Jazzland (a subsidiary of Riverside), drummer Lovelock was replaced by Phil Kinorra (a.k.a. Julian Covey).
While they were recording, Melody Maker reported that the month-old quintet "nearly swung the tapes off the machines when they were blowing some of the wildest jazz this side of New York." A few days after the session, the Don Rendell Five left for their first provincial tour: Birmingham, Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and Leeds. This circuit would become their usual path when they later returned north. Meanwhile, in London they secured more income with gigs at the Flamingo Club, Ronnie Scott's and the Marquee club.
Although busy by night with the quintet, Bond also worked as a sales and promotion manager for Central Record Distributors. In early October, the New Don Rendell Quintet's Roarin' became available in retail stores on both sides of the Atlantic (U.S./Jazzland JLP 51 (M), Jazzland JLP 951S (S); U.K./Jazzland JLP 51). As the second British jazz group ever to have a release on an American label (Joe Harriott's band having the first), this was an extraordinary achievement, as U.S. labels until that point had shown little interest in overseas groups. The record was very good with its combination of soon-to-be standards and self-produced material, and the stormy interplay between the two seemingly incongruous jazz and blues styles was especially appealing.
A month later, Bond briefly joined forces with Heckstall-Smith in the Live New Departures when a New Jazz & Poetry concert-including poet Pete Brown-was staged at St. Pancras Town Hall in London.
Kicking off 1962 rather nicely, Bond's name appeared in two sections of Melody Maker's annual jazz poll. Apart from achieving second place in the "New Star" section (topped only by Dick Morrissey), he also secured sixth place in the "Alto" section-not bad for a guy who was brand-new to the pro scene. In May, with drummer Kinorra now replaced by Ted Pope, the group visited Belgium and performed at an international jazz show in Brussels. They were promptly invited back for TV and radio in the autumn. Summer came with the usual festivals, and apart from First West County at Taunton, Earlswood at Birmingham, and East Coast at Cleethorpes, the band also performed at the Second National Jazz Festival at Richmond for the second straight year.
In mid-September, the quintet recorded their first session for the BBC. With Heckstall-Smith as a guest player, they sounded like a small big band á la the Cannonball Adderley Sextet. The band smoked, especially when the sax section traded solos: Rendell on soprano, Bond on alto and Heckstall-Smith on tenor.
Bond was now also involved in a budget big band, the Johnny Burch Octet. Aside from Burch, Bond and Heckstall-Smith, the lineup featured Miff Moule (baritone), Mike Falana (trumpet), John Mumford (trombone), Jack Bruce (double bass) and Ginger Baker (drums). Pretty much a combination of the Rendell Band (Bond and Burch) and Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated (Heckstall-Smith, Bruce and Baker), they started playing together on their days off. While they didn't tour (aside from a few gigs in Wales), they did secure regular nearby gigs at clubs, including Klooks Kleek, the Plough Pub located in Illford, Essex, and occasionally the Marquee.
In late October, Bond quit the Don Rendell Quintet, explaining that he had wanted a change for a while and was feeling challenged to play piano again. The chance came almost right away, when harp player/vocalist Cyril Davies left Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, which was suddenly moving into a direction of mixing Muddy Waters blues with horn-driven Charles Mingus jazz-something Davies very much disliked. On the other hand, this direction appealed to Bond, who gladly accepted when Korner invited him in. In addition to Korner on guitar and Dick Heckstall-Smith on tenor, the impressive Blues Incorporated roster now included Ronnie Jones on vocals, Johnny Parker on piano, Bruce on double bass and Baker on drums. Some fine black female backing singers called the Velvettes also performed with them on occasion.
Though the Rendell Quintet had worked pretty hard on the tiny circuit, Graham's new group went into a massive round of gigs. Apart from a residence at the Marquee, they also worked regularly in clubs as far away as Manchester and Liverpool.
Early in 1963, Blues Incorporated left their Marquee residency for a new spot at the Flamingo. Although both were off-license clubs, it was probably a good move for Korner because the new venue became an all-night club during the weekends. Around this time, Bond, Bruce and Baker started to play the intervals as a Hammond organ trio. (Georgie Fame has said that Bond introduced him to the organ during this period. The instrument would prove to be quite powerful in the R&B connection in the years to come). "I was the first one to be taking the Hammond around the country except for people like Harold Smart," Bond later said to Beat Instrumental. "I pioneered the splitting of the Hammond. It was necessary to do it to get around in those days."
Ginger Baker was hardly a stranger to Bond. Aside from playing together in the Johnny Burch Octet, the two had played the occasional gig together in various other formations. Scotsman Jack Bruce, on the other hand, was a bit younger than the other two, although still an experienced bass player. During his early teens, Bruce had studied cello before heading off to Italy with a group for a while. He returned, sat in with Heckstall-Smith and Baker at a May ball, and next popped up in Korner's band. By this point, Bond was working every night either with Blues Incorporated, the Johnny Burch Octet or his own trio. In fact, he contributed to all three combinations on some nights.
In between the tight gig schedule, Blues Incorporated also found time to do some sessions for the BBC. They appeared on both the 6.25 TV show and radio's Jazz Club. (Later, "Rockin'," recorded at the radio broadcast, turned up on Korner's retrospective album, Bootleg Him). During this period, the band also did a session for Decca at their West Hampstead studio. Recorded at night with an invited audience, Blues Incorporated performed 11 songs. Unfortunately, only "Early in the Morning" and "Night Time Is the Right Time" were ever released.
Bond also played on a session for competitor EMI. Backed by the Blues Incorporated rhythm section plus Heckstall-Smith and the Velvettes, Bond both sang and played his Hammond through the audition recording. Nothing came to fruition at the time, but the EMI link was made.
In late February, Bond's trio played in Manchester on their own, making more money than either Blues Incorporated or the Johnny Burch Octet could command per player. Bond realized that leading his own trio would be far more lucrative financially than being part of a septet, so after a heated discussion with Korner at the Flamingo, Bond left, taking Bruce and Baker with him. The rhythm section hadn't actually decided to leave, as the steady income with Korner was quite secure, but, as Baker put it, "He left for me and Jack!" Bruce would later say it took years before Korner really forgave him.
In any event, the trio were on their own and, although Bond's reputation helped a lot, they struggled to obtain gigs. The group was now Graham's main source of income, but he still contributed to the Burch Octet and was also occasionally involved with the Live New Departures, a jazz and poetry unit that had been performing sporadically since the St. Pancras Town Hall concert in 1961. However, early in March, guitarist John McLaughlin joined the trio after leaving Georgie Fame's band, and Bond signed a five-year contract with EMI.
The band's first release was backing singer Duffy Power on a Hammond-spiced version of the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There." Bond's own "Farewell Baby" was originally chosen as the A-side and "I Saw Her Standing There" as the B-side, but Parlophone flip-flopped the songs prior to release.
A package tour backing Power took place in April, with Joe Brown and Marty Wilde also on the bill. That same month, the Graham Bond Quartet found time to record a BBC radio session for Jazz Club on the twenty-fifth. Augmented by singer Bobby Breen on two songs, they played a mix of Ray Charles songs and original material and arrangements. In May, "I Saw Her Standing There" was released as a single, and during the summer months Duffy Power and the Graham Bond Quartet-as they were billed-promoted the record through two BBC radio sessions. In June, they appeared on Saturday Club and the following month were featured on Pop Goes the Beatles. During this time, another EMI session with Duffy and the Quartet produced two Ray Charles tunes, but both remain unreleased.
In August 1963, Bond appeared at the "National Jazz Festival" again, as the organizers now had chosen to include R&B in the program. Also that month, Heckstall-Smith left Blues Incorporated. He found a new place to stay when Ginger Baker fired McLaughlin in September. The reason, according to Baker, was quite simple: McLaughlin was "a miserable moaner." During his short stay, however, McLaughlin was introduced to certain things by Bond, one being the occult. Bond had been quite interested in the subject for some time and he guided McLaughlin in learning to read Tarot cards. Bond's interest in the occult eventually grew much stronger.
With Heckstall-Smith replacing the fired guitarist, the combo could experiment with two saxophones up-front, with Bond doubling on Hammond and alto. They hit the London club scene hard, playing Klooks Kleek, the Refectory and Jazzshows Jazzclub-soon to be renamed the 100 Club-and toured further north with regular gigs at Newcastle's Club a Go-Go.
By 1964, Graham had fallen from second to fourth place in Melody Maker's New Star poll, but he reached a high position in the "Miscellaneous" column as an organist. By April, the group changed their name from the Graham Bond Quartet to the more dynamic Graham Bond Organization (also spelled "Organisation"). However, their earlier EMI deal hadn't really pleased the band, so the members auditioned for Decca at its West Hampstead facilities. The group played a good, live studio session that was marred only by Graham's tiring voice. They nevertheless secured a deal and recorded their first single, "Long Tall Shorty" backed with "Long Legged Baby," for their new label that May.
New Musical Express found the release "a driving, insidious 12-bar shaker" and observed, "'Long Tall Shorty' introduces Decca's Graham Bond Organization-an apt name because organ is strongly featured. Graham supplies the ravin', shoutin' vocal, with harmonica added for topical effect and a steady beat is maintained throughout."
By the end of the month, the group had recorded another four songs. Bond and the rhythm section also backed Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin on a Black Swan session in the spring. Released as Ernest Ranglin and the GB's, the results were something unexpected-smooth cocktail jazz. A new chance to see the countryside arose when the Organization-with Long John Baldry & the Hoochie Coochie Men, among others-joined Memphis Slim for a month-long tour. The Graham Bond Organization now played more or less every day, with Dick Heckstall-Smith insisting that they played an incredible 50 gigs in 54 days.
By August, the band was back in the studio recording three new songs for Decca. At the same time, Decca released the album sampler, Rhythm and Blues, of which half the tracks were Bond-related. Apart from five belonging to the Organization, two tracks were from a Blues Incorporated session from the previous January. Sometime that autumn, the band also became involved in the film Gonks Go Beat. The convoluted plot involved emissaries from planet Gonk who prevented a war between "Beatland" and "Ballad Isle." Although the group came away from it with honor-miming to the song "Harmonica"-the movie itself was inane.
An article appearing in an October issue of Melody Maker gave Bond an opportunity to discuss his group's development: "The Organisation is a co-operative group in that there is no star and everybody is indispensable. I think the visual thing is extremely important, but the point about both our musical policy and presentation is that at least 90 per cent is completely improvised. At first things were very hard because our sound was too way out at that time. Then groups like the Stones, Beatles, Animals and Manfred Mann helped the transition which made young people able to appreciate the sort of blues and gospel things we do."
The Organization backed Motown singer Marvin Gaye on a TV show during his first U.K. visit in November 1964. Augmented by John Baldry's Hoochie Coochie Men, the Organization added punch to "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" and "Baby Don't You Do It." In December, their collaboration with EMI also resumed as the group started working on their first album for EMI's Columbia label. The sessions continued between gigs throughout January and February. On the last day of 1964, the Organization was featured on the BBC-TV 2 Beat in the News show.
The band spent most of January 1965 participating in the second British Chuck Berry tour, which encompassed two shows a night for nearly a month. In addition, Columbia issued the single "Tammy" from the group's forthcoming album. New Musical Express described the track as having "a blues-flecked solo voice treatment with organ and brass backing and an insistent beat." The next month, Columbia brought out the group's first proper LP, The Sound of '65. Although it did not chart, the record was outstanding, as it effectively mixed U.S. standards with original numbers. It was, as Record Mirror wrote, "a first-rate record. One to be studied." Disc Weekly's reviewer also gave it favorable marks, writing, "It sounds like nothing else I've heard, and it's really musical in spite of the raw instrumental sounds achieved." New Musical Express proclaimed, "Way-out blues sounds, weird at times, but always fascinating. Plenty of wailing harmonica and raving vocalistics."
Similar to other hardworking groups of the era, the Organization was quite prolific, and the next single, "Tell Me (I'm Gonna Love Again)," hit the airwaves on April 2, 1965. Disc Weekly again approved the release, calling it "a real swinger from this very good group," and adding, "Far more commercial than anything they've done before, yet they still retain that gravelly quality." April also saw the issuing of Winston G's single, "Please Don't Say," with backing by Bond and Baker (U.K./Parlophone R 5266). Their involvement likely stemmed from their sharing the same manager, Robert Stigwood, with Winston.
By late July, the Organization was featured on ITV's weekend show, Ready Steady Go!, on which they promoted their new single, "Lease on Love." Bond also used the opportunity to demonstrate his newfound keyboard, the Mellotron. The Mellotron resembled an organ but was able to emulate strings, brass and woodwind, giving Bond command of a mini orchestra. As Bond explained to Melody Maker, "The Mellotron uses pre-recorded tapes of other instruments. For example, every note in the register of the trumpet is recorded-and I can play it on the organ keyboard getting the real sound." The instrument created a minor sensation when Bond first publicly used it at the Marquee. However, they soon suspended its use in shows because, as Dick Heckstall-Smith told Blues-Rock Explosion, "It went out of tune the whole bloody time. It was also very big." "Lease on Love" may have been the first recording to feature the Mellotron, and the song garnered outstanding reviews. A New Musical Express critic noted, "Here's a good one that I can confidently recommend: 'Lease On Love' by the Graham Bond Organisation. What I like about this group is that the soloist has an inherent R&B feeling, and this is particularly noticeable with the persistent organ blues riff behind him." Disc Weekly asserted, "Graham is singing better than ever with a hush-coloured voice and oodles of feeling."
With autumn came the fifth festival at Richmond under the new name of The National Jazz & Blues Festival. The festival, featuring the Organization's wild version of "Hoochie Coochie Man," was taped for U.S. television.
In September, following several disagreements with Baker, Bruce was sacked from the band. However, he continued to return for gigs as he felt it was his group as well. When Baker finally pulled out a knife and told him, "If you show up again, this goes in you," Bruce left for good. The group then brought in Nigerian trumpet player Mike Falana, who had previously played with some Organization members while in the Burch Octet. Although the new lineup cut some strong recordings, few tracks were ever released including a supreme version of "Wade in the Water," which made its way onto a U.S. single B-side.
Columbia released the Graham Bond Organization's second album, There's a Bond Between Us, in December. The material on it, which was divided between original and cover tunes, had been recorded by the original lineup over the summer. The reviews were generally positive, with New Musical Express observing, "Here's a restless, wailing rhythmic and sometimes overpowering sound, both vocally and instrumentally from organist Graham Bond, who augments his music with a Mellotron." But Record Mirror noted a disparity between the live and studio settings, commenting, "Perhaps the atmosphere of his live performances is lacking."
On January 3, 1966, Bond joined the Trevor Watts Quintet for a gig at the Little Theatre Club at London's West End. Having recently been taken over by free-minded musicians, the club soon became an oasis for experimental jazz. Later the same month, both Baker and Bond contributed to a Marquee gig organized by the ESP label. Melody Maker called the proceedings "an evening of spontaneous avant garde music." Also that month, the whole Organization recorded a radio session for the BBC, this time for Jazz Beat.
Aside from releasing "St. James Infirmary," the group's fourth single for EMI, the band spent February on a short tour supporting the Who. The tour proved quite important, as the next month the Organization recorded an exclusive session for an upcoming Who record. The Who had decided to join Robert Stigwood's newly formed Reaction label. A planned single for their former label, Brunswick, was scrapped and it was announced that their first single for Reaction, "Substitute," would be issued in March. The single was released backed with a Pete Townshend song credited as "Instant Party" but actually titled "Circles." Reaction issued the single a second time with the B-side correctly named, but by March 11, their former producer, Shel Talmy, successfully obtained an injunction against the Reaction release, arguing that "Instant Party" infringed on his copyright. Since the Who were legally barred from recording until April 4 when the case could be heard, the Graham Bond Organization, credited as the Who Orchestra, was brought in to record a new B-side, "Waltz for a Pig" (the pig referred to Talmy) so that sales of the single could continue.
Although the single can today be found with three different B-sides, "Waltz for a Pig" is in fact the most common as most countries used that combination (U.K./Reaction 591001). Even so, the pseudonymous Who collaboration didn't really do much to spur further commercial interest in the Organization.
Despite playing more than ever, the Graham Bond Organization still lacked charting records and well-paid gigs. Even worse, most of the band members had become immersed in drugs and alcohol. As part of the hip crowd, Bond had used drugs recreationally, but he went a step further by becoming hooked-along with Baker-on heroin. With drug addictions, records that went nowhere commercially, and the breakup of Bond's marriage, the Organization began to unravel.
The unending struggle led Baker to look for something better. With a new band in mind, he approached guitarist Eric Clapton, who was fed up with endless one-nighters with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Clapton was interested, but suggested Jack Bruce as bass player to round out a power trio. Despite his and Bruce's former acrimony, Baker swallowed his pride, asked Bruce to join, and Cream was born.
By the time Baker left the Organization, a new drummer was already waiting in the wings: Jon Hiseman. Hiseman (b. June 21, 1944; London, U.K.) was a former member of both the New Jazz Orchestra and pianist Mike Taylor's combo. Hiseman proved to be an ideal drummer for Bond and the Organization, especially in his interplay with Bond. With Bond laying down chords on the Hammond with his left hand, soloing with his right and adding bass patterns with his feet, the two sounded like a whole band when Hiseman joined in on percussion. Although most of the gigs were now out of town, the Graham Bond Organization still occasionally played the London circuit at the Ram Jam Club and various Ricky-Tick venues.
Fortunately, while on a boat trip in Ireland, Bond finally decided to kick his heroin addiction. By October he had done so, and although emotionally spent following a period of going cold turkey, he immediately joined the band on the road. However, by autumn the lineup was reduced to three, as the others had decided to let Falana go, due primarily to economic considerations: It was simply cheaper to operate as a three-piece than as a quartet. Just after the trumpet player departed, the trio went into Olympic studios to cut tracks for a planned Polydor album. Recording more or less their stage repertoire, the live, in-studio session mixed old favorites with newly produced material. The music was excellent, but Bond had spent Polydor's entire advance payment, leaving no money to pay Olympic. With the studio time unpaid for, the music sat in the vaults until 1970, when it was included on the retrospective album Solid Bond. The Polydor deal then fell through, so the Graham Bond Organization decided to sign with the Page One label.
In January 1967, the trio played their first BBC session. Broadcast on Rhythm & Blues, their set mixed old and new songs, including their upcoming single, "You've Gotta Have Love Babe." Released the following month, the single was panned by a Disc Weekly critic, who noted, "Someone's gone mad. 'You've Gotta Have Love Babe' is one of the oddest, messiest noises I've heard in a long time. To learn it was the Graham Bond Organisation was a shock." The Organization by then had an EP and two albums in the works with Page One, but "You've Gotta Have Love Babe" sold only modestly and the planned records were aborted.
On April 29, the group appeared at the multi-group event billed as the "14-Hour Technicolor Dream," an all-night rave at North London's Alexandra Palace. The Velvet Underground and the Mothers of Invention failed to appear, but the happening was quite successful with appearances by Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Pretty Things and dozens of other acts. By now, Bond-like practically everyone else-was involved in the burgeoning psychedelic scene. Aside from playing at Central London's UFO club (UFO was an acronym for Unlimited Freak Out) with the Organization, he often sat in at the club with other artists, including the Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
That summer, guitarist John Moorshead joined the group for a brief spell, but the lineup changed once again as soon as Hiseman split for Georgie Fame's band. Fed up with the chaos of drugs and the ever-present need for money, he left when Fame offered the gig. Soon afterwards, Heckstall-Smith departed as well to join John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.
Once again, Bond assembled a new band, this time with Ray Russell (guitar) and Alan Rushton (drums). In mid-August, they toured the south of France with the Soft Machine. The Russell/Rushton lineup, however, ended up being the last stable ensemble. After they, too, left, Bond's band was henceforth usually promoted under the Organization banner, but he began featuring different musicians continuously. Of the musicians Bond used during this period, singer/drummer Philamore Lincoln is worth a special mention. Bond later appeared, uncredited, on Lincoln's The North Wind Blew South album (U.S./Epic BN 26497).
During the winter of 1968, Bond met Diane Stewart, a fellow believer in magic who by 1970 became his second wife. At the same time, he was involved with a Dutch designer group called the Fool. Though the Fool's members could hardly play a single instrument, the band's association with the Beatles, among others, secured them a recording contract with Mercury Records. A session was arranged in America and they apparently invited Bond along for some musical stability. Since gigs had by this point become limited more or less to residencies at Klooks Kleek and the Pied Bull pub, Bond grabbed the chance.
Although Bond had seemingly kicked the heroin habit in 1966, he had subsequently slid into addiction once again. Hoping to repeat his previous success in overcoming the drug's hold on him, he arranged for another boat tour of Ireland before he left for the States, but the trip went badly from the beginning. The boat wasn't in the best condition, and when they left for Dublin, the roof leaked during a rainstorm, adding to Graham's misery. Graham said he needed rest, so his wife Diane found a hospital that she thought suited him. It was, however, a mental institution, so Bond soon left it to return to London alone. Diane and her daughter had stayed at a nearby hotel during Bond's hospitalization, but with no money and Bond back in England, they had to leave without paying the bill.
Even though Bond wasn't fully recovered, he and the Fool left for the U.S. Since the group had no experience playing and no studio practice at all, the sessions for The Fool album went horribly. They somehow managed to complete the project, but the release was certainly one of the worst records that Bond ever associated himself with (U.S./Mercury SMCL 61178). However, during his stay on the East Coast, he met up with Jimi Hendrix for a session at New York's Record Plant studio. Through 1968, the two continued to jam both onstage and in the studio, but no recordings ever surfaced.
By this time, Bond, Diane, and her daughter, Erica, had moved across the country to Los Angeles. Although Bond lacked a work visa, he soon appeared in recording sessions all over town. In addition to contributing to Harvey Mandel's Christo Redemptor album, he was also heard on Screaming Jay Hawkins's What That Is! (U.S./Philips PHS 600 319). Under the moniker Wade and the Renegades, he and members of Jefferson Airplane got together for a special session. The recording was originally planned as a Christmas gift for friends, but they were so pleased with the result that they kept it themselves. Bond also jammed with the Grateful Dead, but it's unclear if anything was ever committed to tape.
Bond began working on his own album for Mercury's spin-off label, Pulsar. With session drummer Hal Blaine helping out, he recorded all new songs with the exception of three titles dating back to the Korner and Organization era. Released as Love Is the Law in the U.S., its lyrics and song titles now reflected Graham's heavy involvement with magic (or "magick" as Bond preferred to call it) and the teachings of Aleister Crowley. The album was roundly ignored both critically and commercially.
Along with a drummer and a reed player, Bond rehearsed for the next Pulsar album soon after. However, the album's producer wanted to use session players to cut another record, the U.S.-only release, Mighty Grahame Bond. The album sounded quite stiff, not surprisingly, since the musicians were unfamiliar with the material. Bond is rumored to have been involved in other Pulsar releases as well. He stated several times that he had recorded a third album for the label, but this has never been confirmed.
With their visitor visas about to expire, Bond and his family next headed for Jamaica, where Diane had relatives. They had hoped to sort out their problems and return later to the States, but they instead found themselves stranded there without money. Nevertheless, they had a pleasant life in Jamaica, as Bond enjoyed the climate . . . and the local substances. After some time, Bond reluctantly accepted Englishman Barrie Hawkins's offer to help his family return to Britain.
The plane had barely touched down at London's Heathrow airport in August when Bond undertook auditions for his new group, the Graham Bond Initiation. Now based in Cambridge with Hawkins and the Rufus Manning Associates, he had originally hoped to include Jimi Hendrix's drummer Mitch Mitchell in his new outfit. Instead, he found an impressive young drummer in Keith Bailey. As a lot of gigs were already booked, other unknown but highly qualified musicians were set to join the band. Percussion was covered by Dave Sheen, and in Dave Usher, Bond found a tenor player who could double on most instruments, including trumpet and guitar. Dave Howard contributed saxophone, sitar and bass, and spouse Diane played some additional percussion and danced along with the band.
Rehearsals went well and the new group's debut was slated for the Midnight Court at the Lyceum, London, on September 12, 1969. However, equipment difficulties led to their canceling the gig and the following show at Groovesville, Epping. Then, surprisingly, they had to postpone another show when Bond was arrested on a two-year-old bankruptcy charge amounting to £2,500. Following a rehearsal at London's Country Club, he was taken to Pentonville Prison, where he remained in custody until Jack Bruce helped bail him out. The Graham Bond Initiation finally debuted on Saturday, September 26 at the Pantiles Club in Bagshot. During the last few months of 1969, the band played over 50 concerts up and down the British countryside.
A special appearance for Bond during this period was staged at London's Royal Albert Hall on October 17. Although the concert didn't really explode into a big reunion event as some thought it would, it did offer evidence that Bond was indeed back.
The Initiation's first BBC session was aired in January 1970. Bringing together old and new songs, the band performed "Walking in the Park," "Wade in the Water" and a version of "Love Is the Law" that ended with presenter John Walters roaring, "The astounding Graham Bond!" Many fans felt that Graham Bond's new band played as well as the original Organization a half decade ago.
Although the Initiation were in fine form, Bond had also become involved in a new project called Airforce that Ginger Baker had been organizing since the previous November. With Baker's latest band, Blind Faith, on hold, Baker wanted to bring together friends for a more informal project. He announced an all-star lineup that included fellow Blind Faith members Steve Winwood and Ric Grech, plus Harold McNair, Chris Wood, Phil Seamen, Remi Kabaka, Denny Laine, Jeannette Jacobs and Graham Bond. After a Dutch gig fell through and a London concert was postponed, Airforce finally took off in Birmingham on January 12. But just after the show, Bond was again arrested on the same charges that had been brought against him the previous September.
Nevertheless, three days later, Airforce, along with Bond, played London's Royal Albert Hall. Recorded under the supervision of Jimmy Miller, the concert was documented in a double-LP set released in May called Ginger Baker's Airforce. A month later, Bond had his own archive compilation, Solid Bond, in the shops. Divided between a 1963 live recording with the Quartet and a later Organization session with Heckstall-Smith and Hiseman, the album was outstanding.
The Graham Bond Initiation played constantly throughout the winter, even giving a very brief performance in the film The Breaking of Bumbo. But as Airforce's popularity began to soar, the Initiation faded more and more into the background. One of their last shows was documented in a stunning concert recorded for BBC's Radio 1 in March 1970, featuring guitarist Kevin Stacey.
In the early part of the year, Polydor released the Airforce single "Man of Constant Sorrow" (U.K./Polydor 56380). By spring the group had become involved in sessions for a full studio album. Steve Winwood and Chris Wood had left for a re-formed Traffic following the Royal Albert Hall concert, and Airforce's lineup began fluctuating constantly. When a U.S./Canadian summer tour fell through, Baker went to Africa and Bond took the opportunity to start working on a new solo album.
Tentatively titled Reunion, the LP was eventually released as Holy Magick at the end of the year. Bond brought together old cohorts to record the album, which was divided between a suite and shorter tracks that reflected his obsession with the occult. Holy Magick was widely blasted by the music press, with a Beat Instrumental reviewer commenting, "Reluctant as we are to pan Graham-who is an excellent and creative musician-this type of album is singularly unimpressive . . . I make no comment upon his beliefs, but I have my doubts that this boring album will convert many others to the Great Wisdom." Disc and Music Echo likewise quipped, "Holy Magick is entirely involved with the occult and the mysteries of the Higher Powers . . . And if you buy records for musical enjoyment, you won't get much here." Sounds concurred, stating, "Holy Magick is obviously the product of extreme sincerity but its appeal will be on a limited scale."
By that autumn, Airforce had found a more stable crew to tour both Ireland and the continent. Studio sessions for their second album continued through September and October. Released in December, the Airforce II album was a hodgepodge affair. Although Bond was impressive on his featured numbers, the whole album lacked direction. The LP was also released in Norway, Germany, New Zealand and Australia, albeit with different tracks. In addition to including a different version of "We Free Kings," Polydor substituted four new songs, but the new edition wasn't any better than the original.
After the lackluster album, Airforce fell apart. They played their final concert at Sutton Coldfield's Belfry in late February 1971.
Bond again rebounded, once more assembling a new group that this time included a few ex-Airforce members. The new band, Graham Bond with Magick, debuted in April. With upcoming gigs and a brand new Vertigo single forthcoming, everything looked bright. A Vertigo showcase tour in June, including among others Gentle Giant and May Blitz, also helped promote the new group. Still, even with the imminent release of their debut album, We Put Our Magick on You, the band split up during the summer.
Bond crossed paths with Jack Bruce once again and gradually became involved with his new band, which included guitarist Chris Spedding, drummer John Marshall and occasionally Art Themen on tenor sax. Billed as Jack Bruce and Friends, the group debuted at London's Hyde Park in early September, although the band had in fact already appeared on BBC Radio 1's In Concert and made an appearance for Granada TV. Their set, which mixed songs from Bruce's recent album, Harmony Row, with older tracks, garnered great reviews. Soon a U.K. tour followed in October and November. But, after playing in Italy, it became clear that conflicts spurred by drugs and some of Bruce's more tightly arranged songs were creating unbearable tensions, so Bond was fired.
Bond spent December jamming with Pete Brown's Piblokto! But the band was foundering and their breakup made the combination of Graham Bond and Pete Brown possible again. They had worked together in the jazz and poetry scene a decade before, and Bond had also once invited Brown into a late Organization lineup as a singer (he had declined).
After playing two Christmas shows the previous year, Bond & Brown were ready for the 1972 New Year. Lisle Harper on bass, Ed Spevock on drums and Bond's wife Diane completed the ensemble. Dave Thompson even contributed soprano sax during some initial performances. The new band went directly into the gig circuit and played for the next three months, in addition to doing their first BBC radio session in March. In addition, Bond helped his old friend Dick Heckstall-Smith with his solo album, A Story Ended (U.K./Bronze ILPS 9196). Another record set hit the shops that spring-an archive release from late 1964, Rock Generation Vol. 3 and Vol. 4. Recorded live at London's Klooks Kleek and initially released in France, it arguably presented a truer version of the Organization, one not apparent on their albums or singles. The playing was outstanding and although the sound quality was rough, it became the only Bond recording that has been continually available since its release.
By June, Bond & Brown had expanded to a sextet when guitarist Derek Foley joined. They continued recording in the studio (although without Foley), resulting in the July release of the Lost Tribe EP. In the autumn, they taped a second BBC broadcast before the band returned to the continent, which this time included a stint in Holland. Between touring and taping, the group somehow found time to also supply music for the film Maltamour. A bit later, Lisle Harper left the band, and Steve York substituted before a replacement could be found in Tom Duffy.
Outwardly, Bond & Brown seemed to be faring well, supported by numerous shows and frequent studio sessions. However, growing personal trouble was tearing the band apart from the inside. To begin with, their manager wanted Diane out of the band, and so she was finally let go. She and Bond then separated when she discovered that Bond had sexually abused her daughter, Bond's stepdaughter. Under intense stress, Bond began behaving erratically. And so by December, although their debut album, Two Heads Are Better Than One, was by now in the record shops, Bond & Brown had completely disbanded.
Despite his personal troubles, Bond finished out the year with a role in the rock'n'roll nostalgia film That'll Be the Day, which featured among others David Essex, Ringo Starr and Keith Moon. Apart from his role as a sax player, he also contributed to the "who's who in rock" lineup of the movie's soundtrack.
Records involving Bond continued to surface after 1972. Virgin issued Manor Live, a good time rock'n'roll session recorded by a cast of thousands. The That'll Be the Day soundtrack was also released in the spring. Ironically, the work on this album gave Graham his first #1 entry in the charts. He was also involved with the John Dummer Blues Band. Apart from the odd gig with them, he additionally recorded a still unreleased session for the Vertigo label at Rockfield Studios in Wales. In October, he teamed up with singer/violinist Carolanne Pegg and her new band, Magus. But the outfit, which also included guitarist Brian Holloway, bass player Pete McBeth and drummer Paul Olsen, broke up soon afterwards.
Bond's unpredictable behavior, including his obsession with magic and drug abuse, led him to become involved in bizarre situations. After cheating drug dealers, he was beaten up and had to hide for security in a police station, where he was taken into custody for possession of marijuana. When the police checked his mental stability, he convinced a psychiatrist that he was a taxi driver. Nonetheless, the authorities kept him in prison for nearly a month while awaiting his transfer to a mental hospital.
Even while taking prescription antidepressants, Bond became more depressed than ever after leaving the hospital in early March 1974. While staying with John Hunt in north London, he went for a walk on May 8 and never returned. A couple of days later, Hunt and Pete Brown were informed by the police that Bond had been killed by a tube train at Finsbury Park station. According to a witness, he had jumped in front of a passing train; yet the day before he died, he had called a music newspaper to schedule an interview.
Although Bond's personal behavior was erratic and ultimately self-destructive, by mixing jazz, blues and R&B in innovative ways, his profound influence on the early British music scene cannot be discounted, and his legacy lives on.
|The above is an extract from Blues-Rock Explosion.|