Spriguns

+ {Spriguns Of Tolgus} + {Mandy Morton}

Formed 1972 in Cambridge, England by the husband-and-wife team of Mike and Mandy Morton, several pundits at the time saw SPRIGUNS OF TOLGUS (as they were initially billed) as the closest thing they would get to hearing SANDY DENNY fronting STEELEYE SPAN; in fact a connection with the latter group arrived in 1976 when TIM HART produced them.
An original line-up that extended to multi-instrumentalist Rick Thomas and lead guitarist/mandolin player Chris Russon (Mike was on bass, Mandy was the singer), SPRIGUNS OF TOLGUS self-financed two limited-edition sets, the cassette-only ROWDY DOWDY DAY (1974) {*5} and the vinyl-only JACK WITH A FEATHER (1975) {*5}. Not particularly electrifying by the day’s high standards through (the latter is now worth a 4-figure sum), the prog-rock cocktail of trad and original material was highlighted by `Let No Man Steal Your Thyme’, `Cuckoo’s Nest’, `Lambton Worm’, `Curragh Of Kildare’ and `Twa Magicians’.
With the aforementioned HART at the controls, the Mortons reconvened as SPRIGUNS, employing a new formation that included Tom Ling (electric violin), Dick Powell (electric guitar and keyboards) and Chris Woodcock (drums); there was also room for the busiest session player on the planet, BJ Cole, on pedal steel guitar.
The first of two albums for Decca, REVEL WEIRD AND WILD (1976) {*5}, didn’t quite live up to expectations (`Piscie Song’, `Lord Lovell’ and `Outlandish Knight’ being the most approachable and recognisable tracks); however, the Sandy Roberton-produced follow-up TIME WILL PASS (1977) {*7} changed that mood somewhat. With one-time NICK DRAKE and STRAWBS orchestral arranger Robert Kirby on board, and relegating some members to a supporting cast (Ling and the departing Woodcock were superseded by Australians Wayne Morrison and Dennis Dunstan), the latter set possessed an air of mysticism and darkness through `Devil’s Night’, `Letter To A Lady’, `White Witch’ and `Dead Man’s Eyes’.
Now re-focused as MANDY MORTON & SPRIGUNS (her backing band was now Mike, Tom, and new recruits guitarist Byron Giles and drummer Alex Cooper), MAGIC LADY (1978) {*6} was a tribute to untimely passing of the iconic SANDY DENNY. It was released on the couple’s own Banshee Records. Gradually retreating from the world of folk-rock, not wishing to be pigeonholed with a movement that was fast becoming redundant (like everything and everybody else in the yuppie-driven 80s), MANDY MORTON inked a deal with Polydor Records, who issued SEA OF STORMS (1980) {*5}, a record that coincided with a tour of her fave place of the moment, Scandinavia.
In 1983 and back on her Banshee imprint, The MANDY MORTON BAND (without Mike, whom she split with in ’79) delivered what was to be her swansong set, VALLEY OF LIGHT {*4}, a record that housed a rousing version of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE’s `Somebody To Love’ – her 60s idol being GRACE SLICK. Mandy would take up a job as a presenter for BBC Radio Cambridge, while past SPRIGUNS members (remember them?) played for various groups around the area; Alex Cooper formed subsequent Eurovision Song Contest winners KATRINA AND THE WAVES with Kimberley Rew (ex-SOFT BOYS).
© MC Strong 2011-GFD / rev-up MCS Apr2013

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Comments

  1. Sandy Robertson

    My name is Sandy Robertson. I was a rock journalist. The producer you mention is actually called Sandy ROBERTON. This has caused confusion in the past, such as myself being offered production work and a flight to the USA to do it!

    1. Martin Strong

      Okay, Sandy. Thanks for your input. I thought it was a mistake on the LPs or other sources. I’ve sorted John Martyn, Spriguns, and also Spirogyra and Iain Matthews entries. Best of… Martin Stong.

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