You have to commend a band that has forged ahead by sharing their music for over 40 years. During the early 70’s Britain was the world’s epicenter and focal of the rock movement. The scene was made up of bands ranging from Rory Gallagher, Deep Purple, Fleetwood Mac and Mott the Hoople .. but a band that created a brand that was truly revolutionary were Wishbone Ash.
Mott the Hoople and early Fleetwood Mac
Within the scene the competition was great for acclaim and notoriety. Their musical mosaic brought in jazz, rock, progressive, blues and even English traditional which made their sound more intellectually driven. What separated Wishbone Ash was their ability to have twin-lead guitars. The only American counterparts were The Allman Brothers and later Lynard Skynard; but in spite of their greatness their acumen was far less topographic than W.A.
Andy Powell Guitarist of Wishbone Ash
(Wishbone Ash). Formed in 1969 under the management of music impresario Miles Copeland; he placed an ad in England’s Melody Maker on the behalf of bassist Martin Turner and drummer Steve Upton in search of a formable guitar player. Evidently the planets were uncommonly aligned and ultimately two guitarists were hired, Andy Powell and Ted Turner dueling with their fresh twin-guitar arrangements. In 1971 Powell acquired a mid-60’s Gibson Flying V guitar and in the following year Rolling Stone Magazine showed a game changing photo of Ted Turner with a Fender “Strat” and Andy Powell with his “Flying V”; the text proclaimed W.A. to be “The world’s greatest twin-guitar band.” With a thunder every “Axe”playing neophyte on the globe became fascinated with Wishbone Ash and Powell’s mythological guitar.
Rock Bands of L.A. com had the pleasure of interviewing the amazing Andy Powell and he so beautifully went through the history of his legendary band. When asked about the early W.A. saga Powell prophetically told us, “The kids did enjoy our sound, most definitely. Our trick was to wean them on to the more progressive side of our music by making sure we got their bodies moving firstly. Their minds would follow later as we’d introduce more and more extended pieces with time changes and thoughtful lyrics. One song would wake them up as our set opener, and that was Blind Eye which had this real staccato horn – like riff at the top of the song, punctuated by Steve Upton’s jazzy drum fills.
The Amazing Wishbone Ash
“Blind Eye” from Wishbone Ash’s First Release
I remember this one would shock people into action, particularly later, in stoner venues like the Fillmore West. Folks could not believe that. Then, those crowds would drink up our more extended pieces as we took them on a musical journey.”
W.A. was always on the road enlightening audiences with their music and the enthusiastic reaction they received on their second album “Pilgrimage”. F.M. radio was becoming more adventurous and basically through out the proverbial rule book; they played longer songs that would take listeners on a musical sojourn. Album opener “Vas Dis” said it all with its scat vocals and brilliant guitar playing.
Andy Powell… KSHE’s mascot..Sweet Meat
“Vas Dis” from the album Pilgrimage 1971
Their record label initially seemed befuddled how to market W.A.. They learned fast and within the auspices of the band and management MCA created a competent blue print to bring up public awareness.
In 1972 the album that would become W.A.’s “Picasso” masterpiece was Argus. Its panoply of musical styles brought the band to a game changing experience. The music was full of aural pontification without conceit and visually it was conceptually cinematic.
Its artwork was designed by the Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgeson, former graduates of the London Film School. The grandness of Zeus, the king of Gods made for an interesting interplay with this brilliant record. The track that allowed W.A. to take a victory lap was “Blowin Free”. The song was brilliantly sequestered within the California sound that you’d hear by The Eagles, Jackson Browne and Fleetwood Mac.
Blowin Free.. Live from 1972 in Australia
Argus Album Cover
I asked Powell in detail regarding the songs optimistic insight.. “That’s how we all felt -optimistic. Life was an open road, a freeway to your dreams and California summed that up like no other place. In fact we started writing that particular song while driving across the corn fields of Iowa and finished it at the Whiskey A Go Go on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. I remember that’s where I solidified the opening chords to the song and where we pulled all the various elements together – Martin Turner’s lyric, the shuffle rhythm in the verses, the dreamy middle eight refrain and then then the harmonized outro part that I constructed. This climaxed the song in the way of an exultant horn section, but played on guitars. It was then overlaid with that most American of instruments, the lap steel guitar, played by Ted Turner.”
What a perfect song it was and because of its popularity W.A. was beginning to play in large arenas throughout America. Their brand was sticking and crowds were enthralled by the music and the mythology. In 1972 W.A. released a double live greatest hits package which captured the essence of the band titled Live Dates.
Powell chimed in about the live album, “Live Dates definitely depicted the essence of Wishbone Ash at the time right down to the optimistic, yellow, sun ray, gatefold album design by Hipgnosis. Actual design was taken from a date box Christened it Live Dates, and this little pun went right by some folks. Even today after owning the album for years, people are amazed when they make the connection between the image and the title.
Wishbone Ash..”Throw Down The Sword— 40th Anniversary
The strain of constant touring did take its toll on the band and this is when slowly things were starting to fall apart… It’s not just W.A. this happens to but rather its universal within the rock world...” Powell told Rock Bands of L.A. com what happened to his band, “Some of us band members were more prepared for the possibilities than others. I always viewed it as a collective experience but my co guitarist, Ted Turner for example decided to throw a wrench in the works and pursue, what we all thought of at the time, as a selfish alternate route, quitting the band at the very peak of its success for what in reality was a kind of vacation in the Peruvian mountains. I have to say that all of this was fueled by a prodigious amount of drug taking, as was the case with members of other bands who’d flipped out on freedom. Young guys like us really were easy prey for streetwise panhandlers, dealers and liggers. It was a nightmare for our manager, label and tour manager at the time and very hard for them to keep us all together, especially in a city like LA. A bit like herding cats. There were simply too many stimuli. The irony was that all this stuff had happened to Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac who had visited town just two weeks earlier and Peter and Jeremy Spencer had literally freaked out on too much acid. The 70s really was like some decade-long party. It was nuts and things started to go seriously wrong.”
Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac
Powell currently is wrestling with creativity which includes activities like a spirited hike, yoga and catching up with what’s on the “tele”. Working outside the box and eschewing from geriatrics he provided music for a documentary on a French futuristic animation artist Enki Bilal which was the symbiosis of boxing and playing chess.. Chess Boxing is how it’s become known.. the sport is growing worldwide enthusiasm. Wishbone Ash even released an album of ambient/dub/loop music a la Skrillex..
Enki Bilal’s “Chess Boxing”..Psychic Terrorism
Regarding Powell’s “epiphantic creative walkabout” he was eager to share about that and the labeling of music identification. “I am a media freak. I love magazines, TV, film, fashion and music of course. I drink it all in. I want to know about the zeitgeist, the culture not only in our western world but in other countries. It’s not exhausting. It’s stimulating. I guess I crave sensory stimulation – beautiful images, cars, women, art, nature – all of it.
….I don’t like labels in music because myself and my contemporaries came of age in the early 70s when there were
none of these labels in rock. It was only later when they
labeled things art rock, psychedelia, prog rock, classic Rock,
heritage rock. It’s nonsense and just shackles a band like us
which is still a living breathing organic entity. I respect the
past, I mine the past but I don’t pander to it. I have made that
mistake from time to time but then learned to avoid that
Powell with the Amazing Wishbone Ash
Wishbone Ash 2014
The current incarnation of Wishbone Ash has playing dual lead, Muddy Manninen who is a true journeyman. His live persona contains an air rock swagger while he interacts with Powell. When asked about the current lineup Powell was vexing his own musical vision, “Guitars and guitar playing are our thing. I went from making my own axes in the early days to amassing a beautiful collection of these mid-century vintage artifacts. I began to use all of them onstage and in the studio on the albums we’ve made. I love guitars and so does Muddy. It’s all about the guitars, stupid was on a t shirt someone gave me the All of us are involved in different ways with the songwriting. Perhaps the most musical guy in the band is Bob Skeat who, with his bass lines, really grounds our songs arrangements, and grooves. He and Joe handle the musical dynamics, in fact.”
Deep Blues Live
Earlier this year W.A. has released what just might be their finest piece of work in over 20 years, Blue Horizon. The sound brings back “the rub” of earlier endeavors. The track we like best is “Deep Blues”.. Perhaps more stilted than “Take it Back” but unequivocally brings out the Armada of double lead guitars…
A line from the “Deep Blues” starts, “You know that you suck all the air from a room”. Unfortunately there was a serious intellectual property dispute that Powell had won.. A former band mate was attempting to use the band name again after a 15 year absence. All of this was judged in my favor.. by not one, but three different judges. Game Over. That Was a stressful time..
With this behind the zenith of Wishbone Ash will be returning with greater vigor and mojo….
The World of Andy Powell….. Pic of the other Andy Powell.. Titan Rugby Player
Here’s the link for the official Wishbone Ash site..
Thanks to Andy Powell for his time and Billy.. “The amazing” at Glass Onyon…