Phew, this is the final blog I will do on NWOBHM supergroups, so I’ve saved the best (Tytan) and the worst (Gogmagog) ‘til last. Although I haven’t found many of these bands to be representative of my own personal NWOBHM ideals, it has served to remind me not only of how rich and diverse this movement is (every subsequent genre of metal found something productive to borrow from the NWOBHM), but how unintentionally funny some examples can be (in our defence this only tends to happen when bands deviate from their original strategy in a desperate attempt to increase sales). Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.
Tytan- Victims of Rough Justice
This is a video of the moment when it all went wrong for Angel Witch. They were playing on East German Television in 1981, and if that wasn’t strange enough for you skip to 2:28 of this video to see the audience of school children and middle aged couples they were playing to!
Bassist Kevin Riddles and Drummer Dave Dufort had had enough, and proceeded to form their own group, Tytan. Now, I don’t think Tytan started off as an attempt at a supergroup, and they retained quite a lot of dignity as they began to build a large and eager following. Then guitarist Stuart Adams walked out and he was replaced by Gary Owens of A II Z, and I guess they started to resemble ‘NWOBHM supergroup’ status around the release of their 1982 ‘Blind Men and Fools’ 7’’(skip the first minute of ‘atmosphere’ to get to what fans were quite rightly so excited about).
However, while they were riding this wave they got deeper into dangerous supergroup territory, Dave Dufort left and was replaced initially by the Irish drummer Les Binks (the best percussionist Judas Priest ever had) but they then ‘lent’ his services to none other than… Lionheart! Both Tytan and Lionheart swapped a number of seasoned guitarists and drummers between themselves and I’m not even going to bother giving you the full list. An abridged version of events is as follows… The album was recorded. It was great. The label that was supposed to release it (Kamaflage) went bust. The band continued to constantly change personnel until it disintegrated. The album was posthumously released to critical acclaim in 1985 but it was all too late, the band having split up in 1983. Listen to ‘Rude Awakening’ and see why many people consider Tytan to be the best ‘NWOBHM supergroup’ by a long shot.
Personally I believe that Tytan were just trying to assemble the best group they possibly could in order to do the material justice. They were plagued by all sorts of misfortune behind the scenes and this lead to an inability to properly settle. One of my favourite things about Tytan is their tasteful use of keyboards, but more importantly the fact they still put them to good use in their reformed state. Whereas Quartz seem to have dropped this element of their sound in the live environment, Tytan have kept up the tradition. Which suggests that it was never a gimmick to increase sales or pander to the potential American audience that (evidence in the last two blogs suggests) many NWOBHM supergroups not only presumed existed but believed was ready to gobble up their melodic soft rocking bait. Buy the album ‘Rough Justice’ and be sure to give some well deserved attention to the version currently doing the rounds (also featuring Steve Mann, another ex Lionheart chap!). They were drafted in as last minute replacements for Metal Mirror at this year’s Brofest and were absolutely incredible, Get involved here then go and see them.
Gogmagog- how not to manufacture a supergroup
Finally I’ll talk about the embarrassment that is Gogmagog, which was annoying TV personality (and later convicted paedophile) Jonathan King’s attempt at managing a NWOBHM super group featuring Paul Di’anno (who after being fired from Iron Maiden had formed his own band that put out a record under the name Di’anno, but by 1985 it had fizzled out) on vocals. I have a suspicion that Di’anno could be viewed as the Kevin Bacon of NWOBHM, in that he can be linked to anyone in the NWOBHM world through his or her musical roles in Di’anno’s post Maiden bands within six steps (postscript: firstly, can anyone prove this theory wrong? Secondly, this may be true of many well travelled musicians in the incestuous world of NWOBHM, please discuss other candidates in the messages at the bottom of this post!). Poor Clive Burr also got roped into the project (fresh from the Stratus fiasco) also Janick Gers from White Spirit (who of course later kicked ass in Iron Maiden) and Neil Murray who had played with Gary Moore and Whitesnake. From what I can tell, King was trying to contrive a NWOBHM supergroup by using a ‘formula’ rather than properly managing a group. So rather than letting them generate ideas and do the writing themselves, he took the liberty of feeding them a pretty strange selection of compositions to work on. Taking King’s later arrest into account, this terrible song (written and produced by the man himself) is made even more depressing…
Di’anno is so embarrassed about his involvement in this dark alley of the NWOBHM era he refuses to talk about it. Thankfully serving time in Gogmagog didn’t particularly damage the careers of those involved, although King continued to have a damaging effect on our music by continuing to ruin young NWOBHM hopefuls Briar for a little bit longer (their painfully commercial 1988 album ‘Crown Of Thorns’, produced by King is heartbreaking, and don’t get me started on their ruining of a doo-wop classic ‘One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show’ 7’’ from the same year, featuring the ‘It’s Illegal, It’s Immoral, It’s Unhealthy, But It’s Fun’ song on the B side).
King was trying to make a gimmicky supergroup for all the wrong reasons. It gives me more appreciation for a later project (which is hilariously cheesy) that was triggered by two Dio members who happened to have spent some of their careers in NWOBHM groups, namely Jimmy Bain (he rejoined his Rainbow buddy Dio after Wild Horses) and Vivian Campbell (originally from Ireland’s Sweet Savage). The project was called Hear ‘n Aid and they recorded a charity heavy metal single in 1985 called ‘Stars’, featuring a large quantity of heavy metal singers, to give some more powerful voices a chance to show how charitable they were. The project was described as ‘a plea for unity in the fight against world hunger’.
That’s right, a charity single has infinitely more dignity than the Gogmagog single. I may as well mention here that I used to assume the 1991 Grand Slamm records ‘NWOBHM All Stars’ compilation was related to the Hear ‘n Aid single, perhaps mainly because it surprises me that so many people (including our old friend Dennis Stratton and other members of Praying Mantis, Saxon, Samson and First Strike) could be convinced to make the record for any other reason than for charity.
However, whatever barrel you scrape and however deep you dig, you are unlikely to uncover any NWOBHM supergroup as badly judged as Gogamagog.
So what can we learn from all this?
From these case studies, we can list the formula that all NWOBHM supergroups have in common.
Firstly, all NWOBHM supergroups seem to have been based in London. Regardless of their origin, self appointed bandleaders of supergroups always chose London as the base as this was where previous stints in the music industry had taught them was ‘where the money is’. The bandleaders are as follows; for Lionheart, Dennis Strattion, for Wild Horses, Brian Robertson and Jimmy Bain, for Tytan, Kevin Riddles, for Stratus I guess you could argue the leaders were either the two original Praying Mantis chaps or Clive Burr (the group had originally been called Clive Burr’s Escape afterall) and for Gogmagog of course the fate of the group was sealed by imbecile manager John King’s self appointment as bandleader.
Next they all sought success in America., Whatever the intention of the original ‘big’ band that had spawned the ‘supergroup’, before a sacking (Clive Burr, Brian Robertson, Jimmy Bain) or self determined departure (Dennis Stratton, Kevin Riddles, Dave Dufort) the band leaders would have aspired (in Thin Lizzy, Rainbow and Iron Maiden’s case they actually managed) to play in America. It’s quite understandable under these circumstances that this would have become the focus of their ambitions for the new venture. Unfortunately, many bands went about this by trying to sound like Kiss at their most produced and poppy. Wild Horses tried this tactic with the first album but went back to kicking ass by ‘Stand Your Ground’, whereas somehow, Tytan used keyboards and melody, but kept their compositions powerful enough to satisfy the denim and leather brigade. No mean feat, and it’s a real shame that they were unable to build upon that strong start. Of course, Tytan were never big in America and were probably quite sensible in not trying to break that market.
They suffer from comparison to their original bands. In an early press release, Lionheart had publicised themselves as being a NWOBHM supergroup, which in the early days of the band probably led people to expect something that sounded like a mixture of the acts the various members had departed from. I bet they were disappointed not to hear a clash of Iron Maiden and Tygers Of Pan Tang! Tytan on the other hand played a completely different style to Angel Witch, but as a structured vision, which in my opinion worked really well. As we discussed last week, the only happy ending to a failed supergroup project is for your indisputable talents to be incorporated into a pre-existing act that has the benefit of better recognition than you do, such as Uriah Heep or Sweet.
And finally they suffer from Schindler’s personnel list-itis. The NWOBHM is quite an incestuous era, but because these supergroups strived to be perceived as ‘best of the best’ this is kicked into overdrive as bands struggle to give the best performance possible. This of course makes being in a supergroup less fun than being in a doss band with your mates, which is possibly why they all swapped band members so much.
Well I hope you have enjoyed my supergroups three parter! I believe it needed to be this long to do the subject justice, so I hope it didn’t outstay its welcome…
So here is something obscure and amazing to finish. I bought the new Crisis compilation from No Remorse records, strangely enough because I was interested in doing an art project in Macclesfield, and it blew my tiny mind. All I had heard of Macc NWOBHM prior to this was Silverwing, who are pretty sleazy. Of course I also knew of comical punks The Macc Lads, so I didn’t expect this to be quite so powerful and confident… So here’s ‘The Silent Roar’ recorded in 1985. ‘Battlefield’ is a great retrospective, buy it here and stalk them here, they are worthy of your attention…