Friday, 19 February 2016

Procession - 1968 - Listen And Anthem

Anthem/Minuet For Moderns/Take Time/Listen

Procession was formed by members of two earlier Australasian groups, Normie Rowe's long-time backing band The Playboys, and New Zealand group The Librettos. The Librettos included singer/songwriter and bass player Brian Peacock (born 27 June 1946 in Levin, New Zealand), guitarist Rod Stone (who subsequently joined The Groove) and drummer Craig Collinge (born 24 August 1948 in Sydney, Australia). The Librettos had recorded four singles for HMV in New Zealand during 1964 and 1965 before transplanting to Australia later that year and issuing three singles for the Sunshine label, including a cover of Paul Revere & The Raiders’ "Kicks". The Librettos broke up in June 1966 when Peacock and Stone joined The Playboys. Collinge formed the heavy rock-trio, The Knack.

Apart from Peacock and Stone, The Playboys line up also included drummer Graeme Trottman and keyboard player Phil Blackmore. In November 1966, this line up relocated to London and hooked up with Australian singer Normie Rowe. In March 1967, Blackmore returned to Australia and Trevor Griffin (born 22 December 1944 in Birmingham, England) joined from The Question Marks (formerly The John Bull Breed, which included future Moody Blue, John Lodge). A month later, another Englishman, ex-Adam Faith sideman, Mick Rogers (born Michael Oldroyd, 20 September 1946 in Dovercourt, Essex, England) replaced Stone.While still with Rowe, The Playboys signed to Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate label and recorded a one-off single, “Black Sheep R.I.P” c/w “Sad”, which came out in August 1967. By then, Rowe and The Playboys had returned to Australia. In October, the group split from Rowe, and Collinge replaced Trottman on drums.

Renamed as Procession, the group made its much-heralded live debut at Sebastians disco in Melbourne on 17 December and then played at another local club, Berties from 19-26 December. After further shows at Sebastians from 27-31 December, Procession returned to Berties to play from 1-17 January 1968. Having signed to the Festival label, Procession’s debut single, Peacock and Rogers’ a cappella “Anthem” backed by the Rogers-Griffin collaboration, “Take Time” came out on 18 December 1967 but was only a minor hit. Three months later, a second single, coupling Peacock and Rogers’ “Listen” with “Minuet For Moderns” only reached the lower rungs of the charts, despite being the first Australian disc to be recorded on newly installed eight-track equipment.
 Throughout this period, the group became a weekly fixture on the national television rock show “Uptight”, which was produced by the band’s manager, David Joseph. The group played at Berties on 28 April before setting off on an Australia-wide tour. However, when the group’s debut LP “Procession ‘Live’ at Sebastians” (recorded on 3 April 1968) failed to chart, the group decided to relocate to the UK in search of a wider audience. The band's final Australian show was at the Royale Ballroom on 18 June 1968 alongside The Twilights and The Virgil Brothers.

Arriving in London, Procession soon found their feet on the burgeoning live scene and became a popular and regular attraction at the Marquee during early-mid 1969. The band signed to Philips/Mercury and a second eponymous LP, produced by Mike Hugg of Manfred Mann attracted rave reviews but poor sales. In the U.S., this LP was released on Mercury's subsidiary label, Smash.
Likewise, two singles, Peacock’s “Every American Citizen” c/w “Essentially Susan” and a re-recording of “Anthem” as “One Day Every Week” backed by Peacock's “Wigwam City”, released in October 1968 and December 1968 respectively, also flopped.

In March 1969, Collinge left to join Manfred Mann Chapter Three and former Cat Stevens sideman Chris Hunt (born 15 November 1945 in Hillingdon, Middlesex, England) joined on drums. The following month, Peacock brought his friend, singer-songwriter Ross Wilson (born 18 November 1947, Armadale, Victoria, Australia), formerly of The Pink Finks and Party Machine, over from Australia. Wilson took over from Rogers as the lead singer, although the move was resented by both Rogers and Hunt.

 In late May or early June the group recorded several new songs at Olympic Studios, including Rogers’s "Surrey" and Wilson’s "Papa’s In The Vice Squad" and "I Wanna Be Loved", but these were never released. They reportedly also featured another of Wilson's new compositions, "Make Your Stash", in their set-list, but never recorded it. According to Wilson, his song - which was based on a melody from Gustav Holst's The Planets - in turn became the basis for the abortive 1973 Manfred Mann's Earth Band album Masque (which was abandoned when the group was unable to secure the rights to use Holt's music from the trustees of his estate).

Although the band was now nearing its end, Wilson's brief stint with Procession provided an unexpected side-benefit - it was during this period that he read a British newspaper article about the history of "juke joints" in the American south, and the accompanying photo, which showed dancers performing "The Eagle Rock and the The Pigeon Wing" provided the inspiration for Wilson's breakthrough hit with his next band. Procession's final engagement was a month-long student cruise from London to New York. By this time manager David Joseph had largely lost interest in the band and was concentrating on The New Seekers. The group officially disbanded in September 1969. Wilson returned to Australia and formed a new group, Sons of the Vegetal Mother, which later evolved into the popular Australian rock'n'roll band Daddy Cool, who scored an Australian #1 hit with the single "Eagle Rock".

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