Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Graham Bond (1937 - 1974 )

Graham John Clifton Bond was born in 1937 in Romford, Essex. Abandoned as a baby he was adopted and brought up to appreciate music learning to play piano at an early age. He studied piano for seven years until he was 14 and joined the Royal Liberty School orchestra becoming proficient on the cello and oboe. Although classically trained, he loved Charlie Parker and formed a Dixieland jazz band at school called the Modernnaires. Graham was a chronic asthmatic and as part of his therapy learned breathing yoga techniques. To strengthen his lungs, he played the saxophone. Now an accomplished alto sax player he joined the Terry Graham Trio with Terry Lovelock (drums) and Colin Wild (piano) and played modern jazz when and where ever they could. He tried his hand as a session saxophonist but was considered too avant guard so became a cocktail pianist in Majorca instead.

Graham lived there for almost a year before returning to England where he teamed up with the Terry Graham Quartet. Later in 1960, Graham joined the Goudie Charles Quintet before switching to Don Rendell and his quartet (now a quintet) and made his first record. The band recorded an album for US release which met with critical appreciation but little else.

The Don Rendell Quintet played the London Jazz circuit with gigs at the Flamingo Club, Ronnie Scott's and the Marquee club where Graham met and mixed with like minded musos. Keen to keep a regular income Graham worked as a fridge salesman by day and jazzman by night. Ray Charles was a major influence and Graham soon switched to Hammond organ. This gave him wider range as he mastered the genres of Be-Bop, modern jazz and Blues/R&B. A brief spell with the Johnny Burch Octet brought him in contact with Jack Bruce (double bass) and Ginger Baker (drums) and they started playing together on their days off. The trio did some gigs at local clubs, including Klooks Kleek, the Plough Pub, Ilford and the Marquee.

Then when Cyril Davies left Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, Graham was invited to join the line-up and Bruce and Baker joined him. Bond, Bruce and Baker continued to play as a trio and entertained audiences during the intervals. This was quite common practice at the time and the main act took a break off stage while a smaller group entertained. Their reputation grew and soon they were invited to appear as a solo act. This would cause friction between Alexis Corner and Bond and in 1963 the trio decided to split from Blues Incorporated. It was an acrimonious separation and the trio found it tough going at first. They played a mixture of jazz and blues in the London clubs and when John McLaughlin (guitar) left Georgie Fame's band to join them, they signed a five-year contract with EMI. Graham’s band became the backing group for Duffy Power. Duffy had been an early rocker and started in the Larry Panes stable with Marty Wild et al. Their first release was a cover version of the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" with the B side Bond's own "Farewell Baby." Despite plugging the record and appearing on all the top radio shows their single went nowhere.

Ginger Baker fell out with John McLaughlin and he left. His replacement was Dick Heckstall-Smith (previously Blues Incorporated). The new combo was able to experiment and played Klooks Kleek, the Refectory and Jazzshows Jazzclub (100 Club) as well as touring outside London. In 1963 the new Bond group appeared at the "National Jazz Festival" which now included an R&B program. Now called the Graham Bond Organisation they performed imaginative covers with some fairly strong original material. Jack Bruce developed his bass style and changed from a white acoustic bass to a Fender VI electric bass and this gave allowed him greater freedom to improvise. Graham used the Hammond organ and Leslie speaker in combination then "split" the instrument for portability. He built his own electronic keyboard, and was an early devotee of the mellotron (synthesiser).

On stage the Graham Bond Organisation was powerhouse due to the combination of organ, drums, sax and driving bass. This was complemented by his powerful (often gruff) vocals and clever arrangements. Their sound was magic, musicianship raw and always full of energy. Graham (now dubbed The Mighty Shadow) has a stage presence which was once described as "loud, hypnotic and neurotic," this was no exaggeration. The one and only thing the group lacked was a pretty boy to front them and without this image they failed to catch popular attention. In 1964 they moved to Decca and recorded “Long Tall Shorty" backed with "Long Legged Baby."

The A side featured harmonica and Hammond organ and Graham’s driving vocals but the single made no impact on the charts. Back in the studio they backed Ernest Ranglin and released some smooth jazz tracks under the name Ernest Ranglin and the GB's.

Sadly, these too failed to catch mainstream attention although it is testament to their musicianship. The opportunity soon presented to tour the UK with Memphis Slim and Graham Bond Organisation (GBO) joined Long John Baldry & the Hoochie Coochie Men on the month-long tour. In the same year they backed Marvin Gaye, then released "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" and "Baby Don't You Do It" which met with warm appreciation but little else.

In 1965 they toured the UK with Chuck Berry. Whilst commercial success eluded them, as a band of musicians they most certainly influenced the emerging British Blues movement. From Donovan to Mick Jagger all sang the praises of Graham Bond. As the sixties progressed Graham became more addicted to narcotics and alcohol until Ginger Baker had to take control of the group. Despite their outstanding live performances, the GBO failed to capture the same success on vinyl. They even tried novelty to gain attention with a version of “Tammy” but to no avail.

Robert Stigwood produced a couple of albums in 1965 which included ‘There’s a Bond Between Us.” This album comes closest to the GBO’s best works and despite a serious attempt to appeal commercially little interest was shown other than by the band’s loyal fans.

Discord followed and Ginger and Jack were constantly arguing which often led to fights on stage. Meantime substance abuse continued. Eventually and reluctantly Jack Bruce left the band and Graham took over on pedal bass. As a trio in 1966 they had some unexpected chart success when the Who were faced with contractual problems and could not release a B side to their hit single “Substitute.” The GBO stepped in and "Waltz for a Pig” written by Ginger Baker became the B Side.

Jack Bruce meantime briefly joined John Mayall before moving onto Manfred Mann. Ginger Baker keen to expand his musical career left the GBO to form Cream with Eric Clapton and his old adversary, Jack Bruce. Jon Hiseman replaced Ginger but the GBO folded when Dick and Jon eventually joined John Mayall's Bluesbreakers in 1967. The following year Graham Bond and Diane Stewart (singer) became an item and shared an interest in the occult. The couple moved to the States where Bond worked as a session musician recording with Dr John, Harvey Brooks, Harvey Mandel, and Hal Blaine. He also did some fleeting and undocumented collaborations with Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix. A solo album was also produced but this was mostly ignored.

In 1969, he returned to London in an attempt to rebuild his career. Now in a new band called The Graham Bond Initiation he started to get club work and took the opportunity to record and tour with Ginger Baker's Airforce. Later he and now wife Dianne formed Holy Magick and released We Put Our Magick On You (1971).

Later they collaborated with Pete Brown on Two Heads are Better Than One album (1972).

Various bands with varying membership combinations followed including a short spell with Jack Bruce (Jack Bruce Band). Graham continued to battle a growing dependency and became progressively more obsessed with the occult which preoccupied his conscious hours. This made him unreliable and unemployable. Despite a month in prison and a subsequent period spent in a mental institution, Graham Bond situation was desperate. Although undiagnosed at the time Graham had bipolar disorder with behaviour patterns which were erratic, with wild mood swings, and periods of manic episodes and intense depression. This inevitably led to the eventual breakdown of his marriage to Diane Stewart and in deep depression it is thought Graham took his own life by jumping in front of a train. This is the most likely explanation for his untimely death albeit there were conspiracy theories surrounding his demise in 1974. Graham was a luminary in British White Boy Blues and wrote (often under the name Billy Gamble) and recorded many stunning tracks (some of which have never been released).

Worth a listen
I Saw Her Standing There (1963)
Long Tall Shorty (1964)
Traintime (1965)
Wade in the water (1965)
Tell me (1965)
Lease On Love (1965)
St. James Infirmary (1966)
You’ve Gotta Have Love Babe (1967)
Love Is The Law (1969)
Moving Towards The Light (1969)
Water, Water (1969)
Walking In The Park (1970)
Man Of Constant Sorrow(1970)
Twelve Gates To The City (1971)

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