The name, and the music, of Terry Reid may not be widely known: but that doesn’t mean they’re not worthy of the attention of any true music nerd. As the man who turned down Jimmy Page’s offer of providing vocals for ‘The New Yardbirds’ due to contractual obligations (recommending one Robert Plant in his stead), he could — or should — be a household name. He later rejected Deep Purple also, in order to continue doing his own thing; Ian Gillan eventually got the gig.
Such recognition from his better-known peers should at least give some idea of the man’s extraordinary vocal talent. I’m not even going to try to draw comparisons: this was a unique gift. One further recommendation — from none less than the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin (c. 1968):
“There are only three things happening in London: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Terry Reid.”
High praise indeed: especially when you consider that he was then just seventeen (even if Aretha evidently hadn’t been looking in all the corners…).
Speculations of what might have been, however, are pretty pointless. As a more than accomplished guitarist, I’m quite certain that there would have been innumerable clashes with either Page or Blackmore: and it seems that Terry has few regrets in that department. His influence continues to be felt, The Raconteurs’ version of his “Rich Kid’s Blues” being a recent notable example. He’s still doin’ his thang live, on both sides of the pond. Hope he’ll come to Spain sometime, having never yet had the privilege.
He’d started his apprenticeship young. At fifteen, already a veteran around East Anglia fronting his school band, he’d been snapped up to front The Jaywalkers: a well-established, though distinctly second division act, looking to reinvent themselves as a ‘Brit Soul’ outfit. They put out just one single together before dropping apart: “The Hand Don’t Fit the Glove”, with Terry’s song “This Time” on the flipside. Both are available on some re-release versions of this album (though neither is essential listening).
He subsequently started to put together a stage act with Eric Leese on keyboards and Keith Webb on drums. Moving up to London, they wasted little time in starting to attract attention, and Terry was soon counting the likes of Harrison, Hendrix and Clapton as personal friends. Everything seemed to be in place for Terry Reid to make it megatime.
The ‘obligation’ which prevented him from flying with Zeppelin was nothing short of opening for the Stones on their ’69 US Tour. He later supported both Cream and the Experience and a host of other big name bands. As a hangover from the brief Jaywalkers stint, his destiny as a recording artist was in the hands of the despotic manager/producer Mickey Most; and hangovers, as everyone knows, generally include headaches…
The US-only debut album Bang Bang You’re Terry Reid, with John Bonham’s brother Bill by then on keyboards (and some John Paul Jones involvement into the bargain), was released in 1968; receiving plenty of critical acclaim, though little commercial success — essentially due to its non-promotion, the band being back in England by the time it was issued. A serious illness forced Bill to give way to Pete Solley before the next album — this one, eponymously titled in the UK and Move Over For… in America, which again had disappointing sales (on both sides of the Atlantic) and, more importantly, led to a massive row with Most.
Terry Reid wasn’t the first (or last) artist to resent Mickey’s manipulative managerial and production style: the stated intent to mould him into a crooning balladeer was a particular bone of contention. He consequently refused to work with or for the dictator any more: moving to California and stoically sitting out his contract, unable to release further material. It was 1973 before his next LP, the much country/folksier River, hit the shelves. It seemed to set a pattern for the future too: he’s only made six more since then, experimenting with a range of styles and genres, and continuing to collaborate with a series of ‘names’. He was, however, free to consolidate himself as a live act: opening the first ever ‘Glastonbury Fayre’ in ’71, for example. On-stage the trio was often complemented by a bass player — an unidentified black dude in a lot of clips — and though nobody’s credited on the album, I’m not convinced that all of the rhythmic work herein was keyboard generated.
My love affair with this LP started well after the fact (but still a quarter of a century ago) as part of my ‘extra-curricular studies’ at Derby College. Had a fine tutor — he knows who he is. Introducing others to its delights over the years has given me a mine of memories and consolidated numerous friendships. I dedicate this review to all of ’em, and any new ones I may make by hereby introducing them to ‘the greatest talent never to have been known’.
It took me a good five years to eventually track down the vinyl to leave my cassette copy exclusively for the car. It’s actually a MFP re-release, rather irksomely retitled The Most Of… Stamped on the back cover are the words ‘Not Returnable’. Below, in my handwriting, it reads ‘Not fer love ner money, honey…’ Though part of his argument with Most was over its production, it’s hard to know exactly how Terry wanted to improve it. Unmistakably ‘of its era’, but everything works with everything else — channel-pans an’ all — to create a glorious slab of pulsating, searing energy overload that’ll still fly you and floor you every time, in more or less equal measures.
Great songs (six originals and three corkin’ covers), great playing and — ohmygod — that voice!
Play loud, enjoy.
Terry Reid — Terry Reid: Track-by-track review
1. “Superlungs My Supergirl”
Reid had already covered Donovan (another Mickey Most product) on his first album, versioning “Season Of The Witch”. This workover is an absolute belter, and a spot-on opener for the album. Boosted beyond recognition from the mellow yellowness of the original ‘Sunshine’ “Superlungs”, Terry’s rendition got him dubbed with the title as a nickname. It was released as a single in the States at the time, with “May Fly” on the back.
Everything starts ‘naïve and innocently’ enough: walking bass (keys?) and strummy guitar, Terry wearing his ‘sweet’ voice to commence the tale of the teenage temptress with a prolific capacity for pot: “She’s only fourteen, but she knows how to draw…” We’re clearly not talking graphic design, as he surges into title’s affirmation:
The backing takes off with him, billowing with the clouds of dope-smoke, the cumulative effect leaving you higher than the reefer queen herself, regardless of whether or not you’ve actually partaken yourself.
Super, super, super!
2. “Silver White Light”
One of those swirling keyboard with crashing guitar intros so popular at the time. Dare you to resist a palpitation or two!
The lurch into the verse; Hammond squawking an off-the-beat, horn-style response to Terry’s power chords and fills; is of similar vintage. ‘Twas a fine year, as any connoisseur will tell you. Some wonderful lyrics (if again very late-sixties), and a typically gobsmacking delivery:
That’s why I’m just waiting here, observing beauty
The one thing given unto me…
There’s no let up in the intensity: it’s quite incredible just how much raw power can be stuffed into less than three minutes. The band vie to outdo one another (not convinced that the bass is organ-based here), but they never outstretch the vocal, which remains majestically, untouchably “right up above you”.
The young Terry; solo, acoustic. Sheer, unadulterated bliss!
Listen to his exquisite playing on this track. Am I the only one who detects an anticipation of a certain “Stairway” in the feel of certain sections? It’s certainly difficult to imagine him having had Jimmy Page telling him what to do and how to do it — and nigh on impossible to picture him reduced to counter-riffs with Deep Purple.
The song’s a dreamy lament for a lost summer love. Now she’s gone, but what if she was actually The One? Looking back, as autumn takes hold, “from red to brown to gold”, no one’s ever seemed so right:
Thought that in July
That we could buy the month of May
And the time
For the lines I couldn’t make
Reid’s voice slides between a bittersweet nostalgia for the brief but eternal moments they shared, and heartwrenching anguish at the realisation that he blew the chance, and that the memories are all he really has left.
Still the sun is beating down
Beating down onto your body
Like the sun rose on the dunes
His delivery of that particular line has time proven powers over meteorological conditions: go ask Grace Pig, or try it for yourself.
I also have this little beauty on a CD single, backing up an early nineties release. A prized possession, needless to say.
4. “Marking Time”
And now for something completely different.
The spark-spraying introductory duel between Reid’s guitar and Solley’s keyboard set the pace, and neither they nor it let up through this steaming chunk of amphetamine-fuelled acid rock ‘n’ soul. And don’t worry about drummer Keith Webb: his moment of glory is soon to arrive…
The vocal storms in at gale force ten and wastes little time in growing to way past hurricane level:
Sand in my hair, sand in most ev’rything I own
I’m flyin’ right here in the sky
Not knowing which way to turn
Which way to go
“Marking Time” — standing still —is tantamount to torture for the “mesmerized” spirit-in-motion squealing with indignance at all attempts to tie him down. Or ‘squealing’ it would be, were the voice not Terry Reid’s.
This track (a live fave well before the album) is probably the clearest indication as to why Mr Page saw him as a key-component for what would become Led Zep, vocally and musically. It peaks with a thrashful of power chords, crashing off the reeling organ trills and cymbal splashes, then in comes that then still comparatively new rock ‘n’ roll innovation, which would reach its zenith in the following three or four years — yep, you got it: The Drum Solo.
You either love ’em or you hate ’em. This one’s short enough to avoid becoming pretentious, an intense interlude before the wham-blam finale. Classic Rock Ending #64, if I’m not mistaken.
5. “Stay With Me Baby”
This is one of those songs that virtually anyone renowned for their vocal power has undertaken at some point or other during their career, male and female alike, starting with Lorraine Ellison’s 1966 original. Terry Reid’s rendition, closing the first side of the original LP, is a genuine tour de force.
The short drum intro seems to carry it on directly from “Marking Time”; a little gentle bass lulls you into an entirely false sense of security, immediately shattered by the blazing guitar/keyboard fanfare which introduces the vocal. Terry starts it coolly enough:
Where did you go when things went wrong, baby?
By the time he hits the first chorus, he’s into dimensions that few other vocalists have succeeded in exploring:
Hold on — can’t believe — you’re leaving me — y-e-e-e-a-a-a-h…
St-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-y-y-y-y-y-y with me ba-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-by!!!
An’ it don’t stop there. You just have to keep tweaking up the volume, trying to keep up with the ever-increasing intensity. There’s a constant evolution in the textures of the instrumentation as the component parts ebb and flow around the alternately sensitive and searing vocal, which puts it into another league from the vast majority of the manifold other versions (check out the cool atmospheric feedbacky harmonics goin’ on in the background).
Terry seems to take it all in his stride, but, by the time it’s come to the most immense of big finishes, it’ll have you breathless, nonetheless!
6. “Highway 61 Revisited/Friends”
The sandwich format of these two very different tracks maybe comes across a little stilted — one of those things that people seemed to think was a good idea as the sixties rolled into the seventies… That said, both are class outings.
Dylan’s dizzy drive down the Interstate gets a turbo-charged ‘revisit’, bouncing off the kerbs on two wheels round the bends. The Zim must’ve wholeheartedly approved of the organ/guitar intersections, having used the technique to great effect on his original. He could’ve only been left slack-jawed, however, at the effortless way which Reid takes the vocal curves (off-road at times!). God knows what he’s driving —but the brakes ain’t working, that’s fer sure. Georgia Sam, Mac the Finger an’ all the rest of them dodgy doods along the wayside are gonna be lucky to not get mown down…
As it fades, a lazy drum tumble introduces “Friends”: without a doubt the most incense-tinged inclusion on the album. The lyric’s a ‘Happy Together’ homage to good times and — well — “Friends”, drifted along by guitar that sounds like slide-sitar (leastways to begin with), with the keyboards chattering away amiably in the background. It was hippie enough, at least, for the English pop-hippies Arrival to put it out as a single the following year: making a top-ten hit out of it, to boot.
It’s Terry’s superlungs, of course, that save it from coming over as just a flake of flower-power fluff. Quite simply, this is an(other) extraordinary vocal performance, fuller than full-on (though sounding like he ain’t even trying!) Anyway, having so many very special friendships tied up with this album, its sentiments seem to kinda gain in meaning instead of becoming stale.
The fluff toughens up, too, as the band lock together for a flying jam behind the solo, which occupies the full final quarter of the track’s 4 minutes and the vocal ad libs over the top are a real treat.
Then there’s the divine acapella at the end…
…And here we are, back on “Highway 61”, fading up for an even faster and more furious finish to the trip, “Friends”, presumably, all aboard. Fifth Daughters, Second Mothers and Seventh Sons had all better ‘get out of the new road if they can’t lend a hand’, ‘cos we’re comin’ on through! And if their complexions are “much too white”, that’s nothing compared to your knuckles as you cling onto the dashboard.
7. “May Fly”
Another example of the fine guitar work which, I’m sure, would’ve led to clashes with either of the megabands he’d turned down. Here he plays semi-acoustic: intricate picking, harmonic pings, sensitive strumming and scintillating string-squeaks: what more can you ask for? This time it’s complemented by some very lovely tinkling piano.
The sensitive introspection of the lyric is more than matched by Reid’s voice: yet another exemplary performance to take your soul soaring to the heavens, riding on wings of the scales he sings. One moment you think he’s doing a laidback talkover, the next you’re right up there, breathless in the clouds. At times he’s just playing with the feel of the words — and, boy, do you feel it!
If you think our love is just worthwhile
Think it’s all been worth it
An’ if you think that life is too unbearable
Too much ‘why?’
Fly high a Mayfly
A truly marvelous song: check it out: http://www.myspace.com/terryreidmusic.
8. “Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace”
It might be just a little bit mean of me to blow the surprise for you — but that pleasant little jangly intro is just there to lull you into a false sense of security. No, actually my conscience is clear on this one: there’s quite definitely something in the way they play it that more than hints at the ensuing outburst…
Yesterday feels like running away
Feels like wastin’ my time
Gettin’ lost, losin’ my mind
I’m feelin’ low and I got no place to go
Gettin’ all tied up, feelin’ all tied up
I’ve often wondered if this started life as a reaction to the straight-jacket strategy of his mismanager Mickey Most, rather than just an expression of the general frustrations of any old twenty-year old at the cusp of the 60s/70s. As he hits that opening lyric for the second time round, his voice is probably at the rawest you’ll find it on the album — but he’s still got enough in reserve to serve you up a couple more special treats.
Such a cool riff, with its sparkly Hammond talkback. You’ll never quite work out if you’re listening to rock or blues (the ‘rhythm’ part inherent), or power-pop soul — and neither will you give a flying fig. It’s another little belter! I’m 110% convinced it would’ve been massive, had Mussolini Most condescended to put it out on 7″.
A thrashy, stripped-down version later appeared on Cheap Trick’s first album.
9. “Rich Kid Blues”
Have been bad times, an’ now I’m paying dues
Got shoes and money, good friends too
Always play to win an’ always seem to lose
That’s why I think I got a rich kid’s blues
With their evident nods to the Zeppelinesque, it’s not really surprising that The Raconteurs know all about Terry. They do a grand and very faithful job with this song on their Consolers Of The Lonely album, the only cover therein included. Now, if you haven’t already done so, you should check out and marvel at the impeccable original.*
Whilst Mr White, I’m sure he’d confess, feels the toll on his tonsils every time he takes the song on (despite sharing the task with Brendan Benson), Terry carries it solo with a clearly deceptive lack of effort. The guitar part’s all his own work too, and he throws in some amazingly intricate trippy tangents over the droning bass (keyboard?) and spiralling Hammond, which obligingly rise and fall — along with Keith Walsh’s ever-dependable drumming — allowing the vocal to soar like a dove and swoop like an eagle, taking in some wicked rhythm shifts en route. You have no choice but to fly with it.
What Jack and The Racs obviously discerned was that this is — in crude terms — an effin’ excellent song! They weren’t the first to “know what’s goin’ on” with all its twists and turns: Marianne Faithfull has also versioned it. Given the title, perhaps Interpol should consider a take?!!
Love is just a story, a story without words
Words are always never seen and never even heard
You could maybe use that line to sum up Terry’s career.
The grand finale of the original album release: the only thing you could really do was to simply flip the vinyl. These days, just stick it on ‘repeat’.
* To facilitate the task, the LP version is at http://www.myspace.com/terryreidmusic. For a contemporary live TV appearance (complete with groovy b+w psychedelic effects): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrgjEUfRcdU.
“Rich Kid Blues” is the story of my life, wonderful guitar and tentitive lyrics by SadlySinging (0)
10. “Better By Far”
Pre-album UK flop single, included with other bits on the CD issue, and a clear example of Mickey Most’s misguided plan to market Reid as a balladmonger.
It’s a bland splat of Tinpan Alley mush which never really deserved to do well. Though Terry gives it his best shot, it’s soulless Soul. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
The 45 should’ve really been flipped to put the CD’s following bonus track “Fires Alive” as the A-side.
11. “Fires Alive”
Terry’s own song was relegated to the B-side of the blatantly inferior “Better By Far”, released a few months before the LP. Funkier, raunchier and far ‘fierier’ than the prefabricated mush on the flip, the single clearly ought to have been issued with its priorities reversed.
Having said that, compared to the gems on the album proper, it’s nothing really special. Like the ‘A’, it was tagged on for the CD release, and remains of mainly historical rather than true musical interest.
Terry Reid by Terry Reid
“Superlungs My Supergirl”
“Silver White Light”
“Stay With Me Baby”
“Highway 61 Revisited/Friends”
“Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace”
“Rich Kid Blues”
“Better By Far”