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THE BEVIS FROND – LIVE AT THE GREAT AMERICAN MUSIC HALL, SAN FRANCISCO (RSD reissue) (1998/ 2024)

How many song writers do you know that couple ‘striations’ with ‘expectations.’ This kind of lyrical ingenuity was what drew me to The Bevis Frond (and a lot more besides) the first time I heard them courtesy of CDs sent by Ade Shaw whose solo albums I was reviewing at the time. The lyrics I refer to were in the very relatable ‘Hole Song #2’, a song that stuck with me and which happens to be the first track on the recording of this live concert now released on Fire Records as a double LP. Then there was ‘New River Head’ which again always struck a chord or two with me. So, I got myself the 2 x LP RSD album to refresh my memory. I wanted to ask Nick Saloman, head honcho of The Bevis Frond for a few observations, so here goes:


DISS: It looks like quite a venue- in the Haight district of SF if I am correct- what are your recollections of your time there?

NICK: Actually, without wishing to get too picky, I rhymed ‘striation’ with ‘sensation’ and ‘excavation’. That is too picky, isn’t it? But I digress, it was the first time we’d done a show in San Francisco, so being a big fan of most of the late 60s SF bands that was a pretty important moment for me anyway. We were staying a typical motel, no idea whereabouts in the city, but when we arrived at the venue we were knocked out by the size and grandeur of the place. I mean it’s not massive, but it was bigger than most of the places we’d played up till then, and of course the decor was really lovely too.


When it came to the gig, I was delighted to see that there was a full house, we played really well, the show was recorded nicely and eventually it came out on our own label (Woronzow) on CD only. We played at the GAMH twice in a couple of years, and my memories of what happened at each gig are a bit hard to differentiate. I know that at one show we were supported by a ‘new’ band who were getting a lot of attention, and that was Beachwood Sparks. I’d heard that they were heavily influenced by The Byrds and other country rock bands, so I was keen to watch them. I thought they were really good, and would probably do very well. Pleased to see they’re still making music together. At one of the shows a complete stranger gave me a little phial of colourless liquid and said, “This is genuine Owsley Acid...enjoy!” As we were in the middle of a gruelling tour, playing every night, we didn’t sample it, and gave it our support band in LA, Brother JT and Vibrolux, who, when we met them again a few days later, told us they’d gone to the woods to find Bigfoot and weren’t sure if they’d succeeded or not!


At the second show we did at TGAMH, Country Joe came up on stage and did a few songs with us, which was a huge thrill. I remember I spent quite a bit of time chatting with a homeless guy outside, who when he found out I was English, started talking in a perfect English accent, and we were both laughing about Dick van Dyke’s attempts at Cockney in ‘Mary Poppins’. Anyway, it’s lovely to see the album come out on vinyl. The sleeve of the new issue has a bunch of photos I took, plus one of us playing I think (which obviously I didn’t take). I can’t be exactly sure what the album sleeve looks like as I haven’t yet seen a copy of the album.


DISS: What a band you had back then. I was a Camel fan from the off, bought their first album and ‘never let go’ so drummer Andy Ward was a familiar name to me. Ade Shaw, the bassist, has had quite a career as well with Hawkwind amongst others. What has it been like working with these guys?


NICK: I was incredibly lucky to be able to work with Ade & Andy. They are both brilliant musicians, and we all got on really well. I’d been friends with Ade since the late 80s after a mutual friend introduced us saying that he knew we’d get on because we were so similar. That mutual friend was Rod Goodway, who’d played with Ade in various bands (Rustic Hinge, Magic Muscle etc etc) in the 70s. Sadly Rod passed away not long ago. Rod was right, Ade & I got on extremely well and later found out that there was a fair chance we are actually related. Ade would still be playing in the band now, but sadly his wife Maureen is very ill, and he has become her full-time carer. I met Andy through a singer songwriter called Todd Dillingham, for whom Andy had done some drumming. Sadly, Todd is no longer with us. I asked Andy if he fancied doing some drumming with the band as we’d recently parted company with our previous drummer, Ric Gunther. Ric wanted to concentrate on a new band called ‘The Outskirts of Infinity’ with his mate guitarist Bari Watts, who had also been in the Frond. I’m still great friends with Bari, in fact he guested with the band last night! I don’t see too much of Ric these days. So, Andy joined up and we became a three-piece band. I don’t have to tell you what an absolutely fantastic drummer Andy is. Once again Ade, Andy & I all got on very well, and Andy was with the band for 8 years. Andy has always suffered from various demons, which would manifest themselves from time to time, and in the end the gigging and touring just got a bit too much for him (and for Ade & I) and we parted company. Happily, we’re all still friends, but Andy lives up in Suffolk and we’re down in Sussex, so we don’t see him very often, but we still have a chat on the phone from time to time.


DISS: ‘Stoned Train Driver’ on side two was another song that blew me away, and still does. Nick’s guitar playing is often compared to that of JIMI HENDRIX and you can hear why on this song, but there is much more to it than that. So, I thought it would be opportune to ask the man himself.

“Nick – which guitarists did have the main influence on your playing - I guess Arthur Lee of LOVE was one of them given the extended version of ‘Signed DC’ on the album. And were there any particular bands or other musicians that helped define the direction your music took?”


NICK: Well, I’ve always thought the comparison with Hendrix was a bit daft, but very nice, because, as everyone knows, Hendrix was the greatest guitarist of all time, and I’m nowhere near. Of course, he was a huge influence on me, but I don’t really think I sound very much like him. I think it’s quite an easy reference to make because we both play a lot of guitar solos, very flattering, but I’m not in his league. I’ve been influenced by so many great guitarists. I was a teenager growing up in the 60s (I was born in 1953) and I was deeply into music, and that was the era of emerging great guitarists. I started playing when I was 7 because I loved Hank Marvin on The Shadows. Then of course, like everyone, I was into The Beatles & Stones and all the British bands of that time. But I guess that all accelerated when Hendrix made his first appearance on ‘Ready Steady Go’, which was an essential 60s UK music TV show. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. He was so brilliant. I really liked players like Pete Townshend, Jeff Beck & Eric Clapton, but to my 13-year old mind, Hendrix just blew them out of the water. Then I was really into all the West Coast stuff, so I guess my favourite American guitarists of that time would have been Barry Melton & Dave Cohen of Country Joe & The Fish, Randy California, John Palmer & Randy Hammon of The Savage Resurrection, Dave Robinson of Mad River, Leigh Stephens of Blue Cheer, Buzz Feiten of The Butterfield Blues Band and later of The Rascals, Gary Quackenbush of SRC, Jorma Kaukonen, Jerry Garcia; those kinds of guys.


Arthur Lee, who you mentioned was a big favourite, but more as a songwriter than a guitarist. It’s Jay Donellan who plays the solo on the revised ‘Signed DC’. He only features on Love’s ‘Four Sail’ album and a bit of ‘Out Here’, but he was so good. I don’t know what he did after his stint with Love. I was lucky enough to have grown up in Central London, so I spent a lot of my teenage years at The Marquee, The Lyceum and The Roundhouse in London, and I was really into guys like Mick Taylor, Mick Abrahams, Rory Gallagher, Alvin Lee, Dick Taylor of The Pretty Things, John Moreshead of The Aynsley Dunar Retaliation and particularly the incredible Ollie Halsall of Patto, whose unique style should have made him world famous. More recently (early 80s) I was totally knocked out by Greg Sage of the Wipers, but more for how he combined punk with guitar chops, and pretty much single-handedly made lead guitar cool again. So, to sum up, I’ve been influenced by hundreds of musicians, guitarists and songwriters, but I’ve always tried to make sure there’s still a bit of me in what I do.


That’s enough questions and time to let the album speak for itself!


NICK: Thanks for taking an interest, Cheers, Nick.

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