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Edgar Broughton Band

+ {The Broughtons}

Like some nightmare involving CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, MOTHERS OF INVENTION, FUGS and ARTHUR BROWN, the crazy world of the EDGAR BROUGHTON BAND espoused the virtues of anarchic mantras in the name of frenzied hard-rock. In the early 70s, pitted against major rivals BLACK SABBATH, DEEP PURPLE, JETHRO TULL and the incumbent British prog-rock scene, they nevertheless still managed to secure a couple of Top 30 albums and a few exclusive minor hits a la `Out Demons Out’ (adapted from a FUGS track) and `Apache Drop Out’ (fusing the famous SHADOWS hit with a more obscure CAPTAIN BEEFHEART cut).
Formed in Warwick, Warwickshire, in 1968, singer/guitarist Edgar (born Robert Edgar Broughton, 24 October 1947) and his kid brother Steve on drums formed the “blues” band with bassist/vocalist Arthur Grant and guitarist Victor Unitt. Turning into a psychedelic combo duly cost them the services of the latter musician (who joined The PRETTY THINGS), but he at least waited until they’d recorded a single, `Evil’, and the first half of parent LP, WASA WASA {*7} – meaning “from far, far away” in Eskimo. Prior to its release by Harvest Records in July ’69 and a prestigious support slot to BLIND FAITH at Hyde Park that June, the trio had upped sticks to Notting Hill, London, where `Out Demons Out’ would gain its devil-ish notoriety.
An English act protesting against the Vietnam War by way of `Death Of An Electric Citizen’, `American Soldier Boy’ et al, was something of an anomaly, but the potent Beefheart-ian EBB convinced a nation of their sincerity through `Love In The Rain’ and the 14-minute anchor `Dawn Crept Away’. Question: were The BIRTHDAY PARTY fans?
As the aforementioned `Out Demons Out’ railed against satanic “armed” forces by en-“chanting” the Top 40, a third single, the orchestrated doo-wop `Up Yours!’, failed miserably in its attempt to be played on radio, far less hit the charts. Despite this flop, summer 1970 revealed they’d garnered some support when SING BROTHER SING {*7} chalked up a Top 20 place. Relying on their psychedelic blues hue and Edgar’s procured CAPTAIN BEEFHEART growl, `Momma’s Reward (Keep Them Freaks A-Rollin’)’ and `Refugee’ were odd, but no odder than the BONZOs-meet-MOTHERS opener, `There’s No Vibrations But Wait’ and the quaint `Officer Dan’. Suites, but never sweet, and prescribed in un-easy-to-digest segments, `The Moth’ and `Psychopath’ medleys never quite masked replicas of trout (so to speak); for BROUGHTON’s “magic band” conducted their own brand of electricity.
Re-installed for the mighty mantra of the `Apache Drop Out’, Victor Unitt’s sharp axe-wielding (and harmonica playing) for the Top 30 eponymous set, EDGAR BROUGHTON BAND (1971) {*8}, was welcomed with open arms. Arguably their best LP and featuring guest spots from then-unknowns DAVID BEDFORD and MIKE OLDFIELD (Steve returned the favour on `Tubular Bells’), hairy Edgar’s endeavours and manifestations had progressed beyond any Beefheart-ian rant – save for `The Birth’. In its place was the back-porch acoustic swamp of `Piece Of My Own’ and `Poppy’, whereas `Madhatter’ and `Evening Over Rooftops’ were decidedly flower-power and/or ANIMALS-esque. Saving the best ‘til last, the space-rock exotica of instrumental `For Dr. Spock (part 1)’ was only eclipsed by Edgar’s singing finale “part 2”.
The band’s HAWKWIND-style hippie-metal was perfectly suited to the burgeoning free festival circuit, although this didn’t always translate well to vinyl, as the run-of-the-mill 45, `Hotel Room’, suggested. Casualties of their own self-indulgence, 1972’s IN SIDE OUT {*6} was met with lukewarm reviews. Yes, this was more or less the beginning of the end, in terms of commercial success for EBB, as attendant single `Gone Blue’ also went awry. 11 minutes of the maniacal `It’s Not You’ gestating before the salad-dressing of the saddening `Rock ‘N Roll’ came to the fore, fans were already re-focusing on the beefier “Spotlight Kid”.
OORA (1973) {*6} was Harvest Records final allocation to the quartet; PINK FLOYD’s `The Dark Side Of The Moon’ eclipsed any prospective sales EBB could only dream. The band neither fitted into one category or t’other, but persistent liaisons with psychedelic blues and avant-garde hard-rock had little effect on glam-rock under the spell of BOLAN and BOWIE (from `Hurricane Man – Rock’n’Roller’ to the prog-length medleys `Exhibits From A New Museum – Green Lights’ and `Face From A Window – Pretty – Hi-Jack Boogie – Slow Down’).
The remainder of the 70s were largely taken up by managerial and record company disagreements, and a hiatus solved no problems that had accrued in the time-lapse. Victor had now given way to Australian-born guitarist (Creepy) John Thomas for their in/out set for NEMS: BANDAGES (1976) {*5}. This record stitched up none of the wounds that the once-loud-and-proud but now-sprawling EDGAR BROUGHTON BAND opened. If the EBB flowed it was down the river to the land of nod, as the folk-y `The Whale’ and the MUNGO JERRY-esque `John Wayne’, offered up nothing but bastardised blues.
The subsequent addition of guitarist Terry Cottam had caused a minor ripple as rock music geared up for another climate change; the timing was then appropriate to disband in November ’76, just as a new anarchy in the UK unfolded. Thomas would later form Johnny & The Drivers. A self-financed concert LP, LIVE HITS HARDER! (1979) {*5} – recorded in 1976 at Oldham Technical College, Newport Agricultural College and The Rainbow – found its way to import stores from Switzerland, but something new was called for.
As many “dinosaurs” had caught on to the coat-tails of punk/new wave (BILL NELSON and PETER HAMMILL among them), The BROUGHTONS: Edgar and Steve, and Arthur Grant, plus Richard DeBastion (keyboards), Tom Nordon (guitar, vocals) and Pete Tolsen (guitar), chanced their arm on the mainstream-aimed, novelty-saturated PARLEZ-VOUS ENGLISH? (1979) {*5}. If IAN HUNTER and MOTT had recouped their resources with The BOOMTOWN RATS or The MOTORS, they’d sounded like this set of songs; only blasts-from-the-past `Meglamaster’ and the quirky `Revelations One’, identifiable as EBB.
A further few personnel tweaks resulted in nothing new but for flop 45s and, with little hesitation the trio of The EDGAR BROUGHTON BAND thought it wise to release a cynical psychedelic concept album, SUPERCHIP: THE FINAL SILICON SOLUTION (1982) {*4}. Probably the worst brainwave Edgar had pushed out, even synth-etic songs about Thatcher-ism were unappealing and out-of-sync. Edgar later became a youth worker until spring ’89, when he re-formed the band with his brother Steve and Arthur; plus bassist Andrew Bristow. A further reformation in 2006 for tours roped in Edgar’s son Luke, but nothing new was released running up to their final bow in 2010.
© MC Strong 1994-1997/GRD // rev-up MCS Aug2016

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