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Graham Bond

+ {The Graham Bond Organization} + {Graham Bond with Magick}

An underrated exponent of British blues/R&B/jazz, “magick” man GRAHAM BOND cast a spell, or indeed a shadow, on the mid-to-late 60s scenesters. Always on the fringes himself while the likes of JOHN MAYALL and the young STEVE WINWOOD stole his chart thunder, BOND’s bands (Organization et al) nevertheless held the key to the mainstream door for several big names such as saxophonist DICK HECKSTALL-SMITH, his guitarist replacement JOHN McLAUGHLIN, bassist JACK BRUCE and drummer GINGER BAKER; the latter two-thirds of the incumbent CREAM.
Born Graham John Clifton Bond, 28 October 1937, Romford, Essex, Graham was adopted as a child from a Dr. Barnardo’s home. He cut his teeth, so to speak, in the late 50s as alto sax player with jazz combo, the Don Rendell Quintet. In 1962, Graham replaced the great CYRIL DAVIES in Blues Incorporated, an influential London-based R&B combo spearheaded by ALEXIS KORNER; like many artists who’d pass through the group’s ranks, BOND was a pioneer in his own right.
Eager to implement his innovative use of the electric organ as a “blues” tool, the organist/singer formed his own outfit in 1963, The Graham Bond Quartet, luring Messrs Bruce and Baker to the fold; future jazz-rock guitar virtuoso JOHN McLAUGHLIN was also, as aforementioned, a short-lived early member; e.g. one just has to ear a spring ’63 single backing DUFFY POWER: `I Saw Her Standing There’ – yes, the LENNON-McCARTNEY cut – backed with BOND’s own `Farewell Baby’.
With a near settled line-up of Dick (another time-served Blues Incorporated chap), Jack and Ginger, The GRAHAM BOND ORGANIZATION and Decca Records cut a 45, a cover of DON COVAY’s `Long Tall Shorty’ – b/w the self-penned `Long Legged Baby’ – for release in May ’64, before new manager Robert Stigwood helped them sign a deal at Columbia.
Early the following year, the quartet showcased their hard-edged jazz-inspired R&B on their debut album, THE SOUND OF 65 {*8}. It found few friends on a commercial level at a time when The ROLLING STONES, The BEATLES and YARDBIRDS ruled the roost, but aficionados of the genre(s) would salivate over their cool cuts of `Wade In The Water’, `Neighbour, Neighbour’, `Train Time’, `Early In The Morning’ and failed 45, `Tammy’.
A second set, THERE’S A BOND BETWEEN US {*7}, appeared later that same year, again serving up a mixed platter of GB originals and blues staples, with Graham, himself, pioneering the soon-to-be ubiquitous Mellotron. Although there was no room for singles, `Tell Me (I’m Gonna Love Again)’ (b/w `Love Come Shining Through’) and `Lease On Love’ (b/w `My Heart’s In Little Pieces’), this really was a group affair, notable for BOND’s `Walking In The Park’ and BRUCE’s earliest of compositions, `Hear Me Calling Your Name’.
No albums in 1966, just a single released for UK and US listeners by way of a cover of `St. James Infirmary’, whilst guitarist Neil Hubbard had hopped on board the previous October when Jack B had been yet another to be baited by JOHN MAYALL. Graham then appeared on the B-side of The WHO’s seminal single, `Substitute’, under the billing of The Who Orchestra; the track in question: `Waltz For A Pig’.
By 1967, the Organization’s lack of commercial success had been compounded with the earlier loss of both Baker and Bruce, who were about to make their mark alongside ERIC CLAPTON in the supergroup trio, CREAM. As Bond, Heckstall-Smith and Hubbard re-grouped, adding another superb drummer, Jon Hiseman, their only product was a solitary single for Page One Records: `You’ve Got To Have Love Babe’ (b/w `I Love You’). Inevitably, more or less aggrieved by the lack of activity studio-wise, the split came that September; Heckstall-Smith and Hiseman joined the revolving-door ranks of JOHN MAYALL, and later COLOSSEUM; Hubbard joined The Grease Band (JOE COCKER’s ensemble), then JUICY LUCY.
A short stay in the US of A – during which time he issued the LP LOVE IS THE LAW (1968) {*6} – under the name Grahame Bond! – the organist was still drawing some attention; here, he was augmented by Harvey Mandel (guitar), Harvey Brooks (bass) and Eddie Hoh (drums). Meanwhile, back in Britain, GB was finally hitting the Top 40, albeit with a 1970-released set of odds and ends from 1966: “Solid Bond”.
After a brief call-up for GINGER BAKER’S AIRFORCE, the restless wildman formed Magick with his like-minded wife Diane Stewart; other alumni comprised Graham Hedley Williams (guitar), Terry Poole (guitar), Steve Gregory (saxophone), John “Pugwash” Weathers (drums) and Gaspar Lawal (percussion). Having previously dabbled in Eastern mysticism from 1967 onwards, a solo Graham became increasingly entrenched in the occult and even maintained he was the bastard son of the infamous Aleister Crowley. GRAHAM BOND’s latest incarnation and preoccupation with the pentangle delivered two albums for the spiralling Vertigo imprint in 1971: the first of which, HOLY MAGICK {*7}, drew on the powers of prog – think DR. JOHN fronting the then-unknown BRAINTICKET – through side one’s 23-minute-long title track “Suite” that was obviously ritualistic and raising the dead without any need to play the record backwards. One of noisy vocal/organ pieces on side two, `The Magician’, was almost made for Britpop incumbents CAST or OCEAN COLOUR SCENE to cover in time (or maybe not!), such was the hypnotic intensity of the set.
Billed as GRAHAM BOND WITH MAGICK, WE PUT OUR MAGICK ON YOU {*6} was rather, weirdly spiritual, although to sing along to `Moving Towards The Light’, `Time To Die’ and the title track, was probably something unknowingly subliminal. As Graham’s marriage fell apart to Diane, so did his impetus to stay off hard drugs which led to over-the-top behaviour; he’d once been jailed for bankruptcy, but was bailed by JACK BRUCE.
The last throw of the dice was when BOND collaborated with cohort and former CREAM lyricist PETE BROWN on a one-off album, TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE (1972) {*8}. Whether this was the appropriate terminology was questionable, but the one-that-got-away record was certainly absent of the occult and back to R&B basics; the exception being the DR. JOHN-esque `Ig The Pig’ and `opener `Lost Tribe’. Pete’s wonderfully-weird, out-there lyrics a la `Scunthorpe Crabmeat Train Sideways Boogie Shuffle Stomp’ and `Mass Debate’, that were almost tongue-in-cheek, but then again the eerie anti-war-cry `C.F.D.T. – Colonel Frights’ Dancing Terrapins’ defused any marijuana milarky.
BOND’s final music venture came in the shape of Magus, a project put together with folkie Carol Anne Pegg (ex-MR. FOX). Again this ended in disarray and, amid mounting financial difficulties, heroin addiction and mental health problems, Graham was found dead under a London tube train at Finsbury Park on 8 May 1974; mystery surrounded this as to whether it was suicide or a “cult” murder proved futile. It was a messy end for a man who had sometimes been referred to as the Godfather of British R&B.
© MC Strong 1994-1997/GRD // rev-up MCS Aug2016

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