From Gryphon to The Banned & back again, or why prog to punk ain't always a groove…

I was hanging with a mate the other day who’d just acquired a pile of vinyl from a friend who was emigrating to the US. You could tell by the content of this record collection that the former owner had  been born in the 1950s. I’d never heard Procol Harum Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and by listening to it I discovered I hadn’t missed anything at all. I had heard Mountain at some point in the seventies and one track of their generic blues rock was enough to remind me of why it was instantly forgettable. Moving on, when I was about twelve me and my mates at secondary school used to wind up older kids from a nearby grammar school by telling them that bands like Gentle Giant and Pink Floyd were commercial cop-outs, and if they were hip they’d have been groovin’ to Greenslade. Actually we preferred old soul records but one kid in my class shared a bedroom with an older brother who listened to both northern soul and Greenslade, so we not only knew about this latter act, we’d even heard their records.
One prog band whose name eluded me until later in the seventies was Gryphon, and then I only came across them because I knew they had an association with ‘new wave’ act The Banned. Viz, The Banned emerged from a combo called Precious Little which featured two ex-Gryphon members Graeme Taylor and Malcolm Bennett, while another Gryphon member Richard Harvey got Banned drummer Paul Aitken work doing jingles, which led to Gryphon’s last label Harvest (they were on Transatlantic Records for most of their career) signing this musician as a ‘new wave group’. The Banned turned out to be a one-hit wonder with their cover of Syndicate of Sound’s mid-sixties single Little Girl (the recording features Gryphon members Richard Harvey and Jonathan Davie). That release wasn’t bad, although it wasn’t nearly as good as The Dead Boys simultaneous cover of the tune. When Cherry Red released a Banned retrospective CD five or so years ago, it revealed just how shit The Banned really were, due to the fact that any attempt to ditch their prog roots was purely cosmetic – an ‘image’ far more than a ‘musical’ make-over!
The Banned Little Girl CD in Cherry Red’s Best In New Wave series actually kicks off with four Precious Little tracks, the first being a prog style cover of The Olympics Good Lovin’, a tune that is unfortunately better known in the form of an inferior cover by The Young Rascals. With a constantly changing line-up, The Banned even managed to incorporate the two ex-Gryphon members who’d been in Precious Little before they finally broke up, which makes you wonder why Cherry Red didn’t promote their Little Girl CD as a Best In Prog Rock effort. Beyond the cover of Little Girl there is nothing on the CD to appeal to anyone with a taste for power pop, let alone punk rock. Which isn’t to say that all prog musicians proved incapable of making decent records in the late-seventies; personally I’m rather fond of the smutty pop issued by The Pork Dukes, with a line-up featuring two former members of Gnidrolog.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, a few days ago I finally got to hear Gryphon’s eponymous first album from 1973, well not all of it, since two tracks of their pseudo-medieval folk crap was more than enough for me! I absolutely hated it! On their later recordings I understand there is more electric instrumentation and so these are less folk and more prog sounding. That said, if The Banned CD is anything to judge by, I will be happy if I never hear anything else by Gryphon. I guess The Banned’s cover of Little Girl is the exception that proves the rule, and the rule is: ex-Royal College of Music students can’t rock! Gryphon even wrote and recorded the music for a 1974 Sir Peter Hall National Theatre production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and it would seem lacking any kind of pop sensibility would be a prerequisite for being entrusted with this sort of task….
And to kick away the cobwebs after listening to Procol Harum, Mountain and Gryphon, we put on Slade Alive! That was from my mate’s own collection, not the one he’d inherited from the older emigrating friend… The first side of Slade Alive! is what 1970s rock and roll oughta sound like!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by Howling Wizard,Shrieking Toad on 2009-09-24 15:49:00 +0000

It’s so easy —

Comment by Steve Schultz on 2009-09-24 15:53:56 +0000

Slade were one of the finest rock band ever, Also check Flame one of “rock” Movies ever staring Slade.

Comment by Zen Master K on 2009-09-24 17:19:21 +0000

cum on feel the noise, girls grab the boys….

Comment by Julian Isaacs on 2009-09-24 17:53:45 +0000

gryphon eh – elizabethan rock; & who was that other band that loved all the pomp & wore velvet jackets and ruffs etc., led by a keyboard player?

Comment by Ben Myers on 2009-09-24 18:07:37 +0000

Big up the Gryphon! Obscure prog/folk is a good way to annoy your punk pals, I find; which in itself is sort of punk in the corniest sense.

Comment by Paul Mattick on 2009-09-24 18:47:34 +0000

Got Gryphon’s ‘Midnight Mushrumps’, which a friend bequeathed to me – strangely charming. Gryphon obviously set a precedent for the Albion Band, who did the music for ‘The Mysteries’ and ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ at the National Theatre from 1977 to 1979. Graeme Taylor was in both bands.

Comment by raymond anderson on 2009-09-24 19:34:42 +0000

any band that has a track called Second Spasm might be worth perhaps not…
oh god no.. crumhorns! didn’t Zappa try to get this sound on the Grand Wazoo?
strange bass sound somewhat reminiscent of German masters KRAAN ! and 70s UK public information films about litter..
Slade Alive – infernal cover – my brother had seen their bovver rock sensation live and bought me the album – Noddy or someone belches in the middle of a John Sebastian ballad! – in like a shot from ma goon – born to be wild, i suppose is the prog experimental phase with the sirens and extended solo – tight

Comment by David Smith on 2009-09-24 20:02:13 +0000

The Banned! what a fantastic single ‘Little Girl’ was.

Comment by The Real Tessie on 2009-09-24 21:57:03 +0000

Why not fess up to your real tastes? You spend more time in the Big Blogger Flat groovin’ to old Spice Girls records than anything else….

Comment by Howling Wizard,Shrieking Toad on 2009-09-25 10:52:11 +0000

Weren’t the Fruit Eating Bears another band who jumped on the ‘we wear skinny ties and look fed up so we are puuuunnnkkkkk’ bandwagon? I seem to dimly remember their name…..
How did anyone get taken in?

Comment by Howling Wizard,Shrieking Toad on 2009-09-25 10:52:57 +0000

Kraan are hilarious.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-09-25 11:06:27 +0000

Hey Howling Wiz, I think the Fruit Eating Bears actually had their roots in Merseybeat rather than prog – but then I guess a lot of prog musicians actually had their roots in 60s beat combos…. The Fruit Eating Bores, sorry I mean Bears, were initially called The Tricyle Turds but couldn’t get booked with the name, so they revived the name of their original drummer’s obscure Merseybeat band (one time support act to The Sorrows)….. But that drummer left after four gigs. They were gonna be on Raw Records but the recording they made was so shit it was passed on to Lightning Records (Chewy Chewy if you recall)…. “Kraan are hilarious” but I still say Burlesque are even better, although the former do have Krautrock as well as fusion credibility….

Comment by Dark Lord Sauron on 2009-09-25 11:41:14 +0000

Prog and punk are for wimps, real hobbits listen to death metal!

Comment by Psychedelic Sally on 2009-09-25 12:54:38 +0000

You haven’t taken enough drugs, when you do Gryphon and even The Banned will sound good!

Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-09-25 18:34:26 +0000

The only Gryphon I dig in Wentworth Brewery’s Rampany Gryphon, which ‘Tim’ at The Beeer Diary notes, ‘is a beast of a pale ale.’ Hardly a session ale at 6.2ABV, but hey, 3 pints of that drubs prog rock any day!

Comment by raymond anderson on 2009-09-25 22:18:30 +0000

and all because the lady loves Milk Tray,
I remembered Glasgow Pronk band Chou Pahrot
Check their post Magic Band, pre Fire Engines witterings

Comment by K Spice on 2009-09-26 10:40:49 +0000

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want.
I really really wanna…erm..I’ve forgotten

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-09-26 12:00:55 +0000

I think Chris, K and I will drink to Chou Pahrot Ray, thanks for the link!

Comment by AndyProggs2 on 2009-09-28 23:43:15 +0000

You must have missed the recent Gryphon gig at the Juniper Suite earlier this year, their first reunion after 32 years. The atmosphere was simply electric!

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