For a band that only existed for a short time and released just three studio albums during their original life span, the impact The Stooges had on the world of music was massive. Inspirational to a world of garage rock and punk bands that formed in their wake, their importance couldn’t be understated. Following their demise in 1974 and frontman Iggy Pop’s success with ‘The Idiot’ in 1977, the market was subsequently flooded with bootleg quality recordings of Stooges live shows, many of which somehow reached “official release status” on CD by the 90s. Most of those discs – with the exception of the widely circulated ‘Metallic K.O.’ 2CD set – subsequently became hard to find and began to change hands for ungodly sums of money on the second hand market.
Following the massive success of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ album at the end of 1991, the major labels turned their attention to Seattle and the surrounding areas hoping to sign “the next big thing”. Bands that’d been working hard on an underground scene suddenly found themselves thrown in the spotlight as the musical tide turned. Screaming Trees signed a deal with Epic Records and subsequently released their three finest albums (including the career defining ‘Sweet Oblivion’); Tad moved up the ranks from Sub Pop to the East/West label and even Melvins – previously considered an almost unmarketable commodity – struck a three album deal with Ahmet Ertegun’s legendary Atlantic Records.
In the late 60’s, singer-songwriter Graham Bonnet scored a massive hit single with cover of the Bee Gees’ ‘Only One Woman’ as part of pop duo The Marbles. Like so many pop acts of the era, The Marbles’ time at the top was brief. Neither of Marbles’ follow up singles or their album made anywhere near the same impact and they split soon after. Graham could’ve returned to his hometown of Skegness having at least briefly been a star, but realising he had more to give, he plugged on. He first made the move into recording advertising jingles as a means to pay bills, before releasing a couple more unsuccessful singles in the early 70s. Material for a solo album was recorded in 1974 but shelved for over forty years. After an appearance in the 1975 UK comedy film Three For All – starring his then partner Adrienne Posta – Bonnet finally made a step in a more positive direction career-wise when he signed a deal with the small Ring-O record label, with whom he released two full length albums, ‘Graham Bonnet’ (1977) and ‘No Bad Habits’ (1978).
The inaugural release from Strawberry Records, ‘Halcyon Days’ aims high in terms of 60s entertainment. Bringing together a great selection of mod, soul and freakbeat sides, it presents famous names alongside forgotten heroes; places cult floor fillers, deep cuts and a few genuine rarities among fantastic (and sometimes very interesting) covers of well known tunes. Across nearly 90 tracks, it sets itself up as a varied and comprehensive listen. It’s very much the kind of set tailor made for those who’ve worn out the more bog-standard mod comps and are looking for a world beyond The Action, The Creation and those much-loved Spencer Davis Group hits.
Following a gruelling tour for their complex ‘Relayer’ album in 1975, the members of Yes took time out to work on solo projects. Steve Howe’s ‘Beginnings’ and Chris Squire’s brilliant ‘Fish Out of Water’ most closely resembled the directions the a Yes album could’ve taken, while Jon Anderson’s ‘Olias of Sunhillow’ opted for something far more experimental. Its forty five minutes blended pseudo-science fiction lyrics with ambling new age and prog rock sounds. Although loved by fans, it didn’t offer much in the way of actual songs. Despite its lack of commercial potential, the album reached #8 on the UK album chart, making it the most successful of the Yes solo discs.
By the time Yes reconvened in 1977, they adopted a much leaner approach to songwriting. On their next album ‘Going For The One’, the indulgent epics that had dominated their three previous albums were largely sidelined in favour of something more accessible. This saw them applying their usual prog traits to something more rock based on the title track, exploring Jon’s new age pop on ‘Wondrous Stories’ (a surprise UK top 3 hit), and in the epic ‘Awaken’, there was even a chance to appease the die-hards who pretended to enjoy ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’. In many ways, ‘Going For The One’ is the archetypal Yes album – it showcases the broadest range of the musicians’ talents while offering something for almost every interested listener. 1978’s ‘Tormato’ followed the same formula but yielded a lesser result, but still contained a few genuine gems. Nearing the end of the decade and having survived changing musical fashions, Yes seemed to be on a roll. Things then fell apart when tensions arose during the demo stage for the next recording. Keyboard player Rick Wakeman left the band for the second time and – potentially more devastating – vocalist Jon Anderson, one of Yes’ most distinctive contributors – followed him. Looking to pastures new, Jon quickly embarked on other projects. Sessions with keyboard virtuoso Vangelis (who’d missed out on a Yes job in the mid 70s and worked with Jon on his own ‘Heaven & Hell’) resulted in a very successful album, ‘Short Stories’ and a huge hit single in ‘I Hear You Now’. Armed with a couple of old demos and a whole world of ideas, Anderson then set about crafting what was to be his second solo LP.