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Northwind

 Looking on the Internet we find two bands using this name in 2003 - one a C&W band from NE Scotland and the other looks like a dodgy French metal bunch.  Now, our Northwind were a 1970/71 band from Glasgow formerly known as Power of Music.  Rock music was changing then and this lot were well into the melodic rock that was coming into vogue at that time.  Main feature was the twin Les Paul gold tops used by their guitar players.  We saw them three or four times. At the Caledonian Hotel in Ayr  - at least twice and an open air concert on the Low Green supported by local band Snids among others.   Anyway here's a pic of the band.

Northwind (mk3-ish) - Left to right: Brian Young (electric & acoustic guitars & vocals); Tommy Ewing (vocals);
 (drums): Dave Scott or a bloke called Nello; Hugh 'Shug' Barr (electric guitar); Tom 'Tam' Brannan (Bass and vocals);
Colin Somerville (keyboards) is out of shot.
This above pic is  lifted from Jim Wilkie's 'Blue Suede Brogans' and is owned by Hugh Barr. 

Dave Smith, resident of Dunoon at the time, recalls Northwind being hugely popular in the town though to start with under their former name they could only pull 50 or so into the Queen's Hall in 1969.   Their then set  included extraordinarily good versions of Pink Floyd's "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" and Traffic's "40,000 Headmen" but the highlight of the night was their own "Castanettes".  So popular did Northwind become in Dunoon that they even got booked to play the Grammar School's 6th Year dance at Christmas 1970 and put on a terrific show.  Dave thinks the band also supported the Keef Hartley Band on a British tour around that time and also recalls seeing them after Brian Young had left. He had been replaced by a singer who didn't fit in - and this bloke's vocal performance on "Castanettes" is one of Dave's few unhappy memories of the group.

Well its small world.  Come 1990/1, Tom & Miff's less than mighty Well Handsome book into a rehearsal studio called the Rock Box in North Acton and guess who's running the show  - why it's Tom Brannon, Northwind's old bass player.  One day two years later - the doors to the Rock Box are locked and the phone lines are dead - good luck to you Tom wherever you are and whoever you're playing with.  Maybe we'll meet again. Thanks.

 Above is the front cover pic of their one and only LP - on the Regal Zonaphone label.  Very evocative seashore at dusk mood - somewhere near the Mull of Kintyre apparently. Front cardboard has a lovely textured feel - you know the 'oil painting' effect.. Back is covered in pictures of the band and friends including roadies, art designers and  - it must be a long hair thing - a highland cow.  Band line-up for the lp was - Brian Young (electric & acoustic guitars & vocals); 
 Colin Scott (drums); Hugh 'Shug' Barr (electric guitar); Tom 'Tam' Brannan (Bass and vocals); Colin Somerville (keyboards).

 

Well this is how the centre labels look in reality - too hard to read - so we've set out the writer credits here..
Side One: Home for frozen roses (Young): Acimon and Noiram (Young); Castanettes (Young/Barr); Sweet Dope (Young); Bystandin' (Barr). 
Side Two: Guten Abend (Young); Peaceful (Young/Barr); Many Tribesmen (Young); Quill (Brannan).
Producer - Tony Chapman.
No doubt then who was the major songwriter.

But what does it sound like??
Home for frozen roses
- Jaunty up-tempo number reflecting on the start of a love affair and comparing to where now.  The acoustic provides the main lead and rhythm with slide guitar embellishments.  Dave Smith - This is probably the only Northwind track ever played on Radio 1?  There used to be a late afternoon show on Radio 1 back around 1969-70 called "Newly Pressed" where two disc jockeys reviewed the new releases?  Well, when Sister Brother Lover came out, this was the track they played.  I cannot recall who the two reviewers were but they seemed to feel that it was good stuff in the Crosby Stills and Nash mould.  It is my second favourite track on the album.

Acimon and Noiam - Prog arrangement with at least three different but recurring tempo parts.  Acoustic well to the fore, some riffs and liquid wa-wa on the electric at the end.  Lyrics a lot of nonsense.  Dave Smith - Was this meant to be Monica and Marion spelt backwards?  If it was, it fails!  Strangely compelling musically but I agree that the lyrics are obscure nonsense.

Castanettes - Strongest song on the album - driving tempo that drops then builds again around some good vocals - a bit Steely Dan like - plenty of insistent lead guitar as you would expect for a joint composition.  More nonsense lyrics  but so what.  Dave Smith - I first heard this 35 years ago and I still think it is one of the best driving rock songs I have ever heard.  The band used to get shouted requests for this from early on in their set when they played in Dunoon and that marvellous night in the Grammar School Hall in December 1970, they did an extended version as an encore, having already done it once.  The album does capture some of the magic but I wish a live version of the song existed somewhere. 

Sweet Dope - Nothing to do with cannabis - that I can spot  - if as  Dave Smith says the title is a pet name for a girlfriend - no wonder they were drifting apart! A love song with well constructed lyrical couplings.  Acoustic and keyboard based. Strong song. Dave Smith - This sounds more like Marmalade than Northwind.  I always assumed the title was an affectionate nickname for the girl that the song is addressed to.

Bystandin' More laid back tempo catchy stuff reflecting on life.  Some cute guitar accompaniment.  Dave Smith - Now this really could be straight off a Stephen Stills album.  Very melodic and catchy.

Guten Abend
  Brief use of guitar swell pedal on this one.  Proggy time changes.  Comment on the fragility of human existence eg motor cycle accidents and such other cheery topics!  Nice country-style electric guitar break towards the end. Dave Smith - The one genuinely awful track on the album.  Sounds like several ideas for a song thrown together and they just do not gel.  

Peaceful Again a bit of a proggy arrangement if a catchy one with very melodic passages - punctuated by descending piano phrases. The brief bluesy heys and yeahs at the end don't detract too much.  Dave Smith - Iain Mac.Dougall was a school friend of mine with whom I have kept in touch.  Like me, he was a huge fan of Northwind and this has always been his favourite track.  He loves the melodic hook that starts the track and it is a beautiful song.

Many Tribesmen An earnest effort about cowboy and indian warfare and land rights. Constructed around the sort of passages of varying tempos and styles that characterize the band's style. Dave Smith - My favourite song on the second side of the album.  Unusually for Northwind, the lyrics almost make sense!

Quill 
  Funky latin jazz tempo with organ vamping dominant.  Shame about the jazzy organ solos but still not enough to ruin the number.. Tam you should have got a bass solo in there somewhere instead! Much lyrical concern re the environment, overpopulation  and the fate of albatrosses.  Dave Smith - When playing the album again recently, this was the track I simply could not remember at all.  It is all right but no more than that.  I agree a bass solo from Tam would have been better.

RS Summary - The use of adjectives like pleasant and nice sound like damning the album with faint praise but they sum it up.  Songs all stand up reasonably well today so worth a listen or two. Quite adventurous and a million miles away from blustering rock n roll.  Would have liked to have heard a second effort.   As usual,  any extra info anyone wants to supply will be gratefully received and acknowledged. Meanwhile here is an interview with Brian Young conducted by e-mail in February 2004. 

1. We saw a reference on Flamingo West's catalogue to a soundtrack with Northwind featuring Fraser Speirs. Can this be right or is it separate tracks? Old Northwind tracks ?  Previously unreleased material? 
 B.Y. - A few years ago I wrote some music for a feature film called “Love the One You’re with”, Fraser helped me considerably put it together, and Shug Barr added some guitar on a couple of tracks.    Recalling the name Northwind sounded a good idea. We now have a 60’s blues rock band called Northwind inc. Fraser Speirs - harp, Ted McKenna (SAHB) on kit, Dave Anderson - keys, and writer Brian Hogg on vox.. It’s all too much ( and great fun ).

2. Has the Northwind album been made available on CD?  Any unreleased material waiting for release as extra tracks?
B.Y. - The Northwind album appeared mysteriously on cd from Audio Archives-whoever they are -  unannounced to myself or any other members of the band. What was cool was they added two  bonus tracks which knocked me out when I heard them for the first time in almost 30 years. I would  like to re-release the actual album plus bonus tracks and graphics asap. Rscots - We've come across a copy of the re-release at last - see covers above.

3. Who replaced you in the band?
B.Y. - Northwind mk.1 is the one on your website. Northwind mk.2 had KIM BEACON on vocals as well as myself - this lasted around 6 months,  Northwind mk.3 had TOMMY EWING on vocals as well as myself-this lasted one short German tour of around 2 months.  
 I left and the remainder of Northwind became “Shug Barr and the Allstars”- at that point I started “Ca Va” with Kim Beacon on L.Vox+drums, Brian Michie on bass and Alan Sweeney on gtr. This lasted less than a year when Kim was asked to join STRING DRIVEN THING  as lead singer with CHARISMA records- I went to London to join Tom Brannan’s band A MILLION PEOPLE with Alan Sweeney lasting around 6 months -  I then started Ca Va Studios.

4. How did you land the record contract with Zonophone?
B.Y. - Our agents were Music & Cabaret (Ronnie Simpson). The ex-Stones manager Tony Calder was looking for bands for his production company Realization 7- both Tear Gas and Northwind signed at the same time - we were then offered Regal Zonophone ( no advance ) like Tear Gas.   

5.  Any early musical history of band members you'd care to mention?
B.Y. - Both Colin Sommerville and myself had been to school together and started the band THE POWER OF MUSIC which became Northwind when Tom ( back from London ) and Shug ( from the Crusade ) joined. Ron Leckie joined on drums and took us to Germany for 6 months when he was replaced by Dave Scott from Edinburgh who we found in a hippie commune in Frankfurt - he was there with  SPIGGY TOPES ( I think ). 

6.  Are you all from the west of Scotland?
B.Y. -  Tom was originally from Carntyne

7.  The 'what happened next' as far as yourself and to an extent Hugh Barr and to an even a lesser extent Tam Brannon we know.  What happened to the other 2 guys?
B.Y. -  After the Allstars split Shug moved to Skye playing with Jim Wilkie and Iain Cochrane. Tam moved back to London. Colin is still in Glasgow, and Dave moved to London then Europe to work in pro- audio.
Unfortunately Kim Beacon died last year, but as far as I’m aware the rest of us are all still on the planet-ish.

8.  Where was the picture on the LP front cover taken? 
B.Y. -  We used to go to a groovy little cottage ( see back of cover ) in Ardentinny.  I’ve since discovered that McCartney was just round the bay at the time.

9.  Why the Les Paul gold tops?
B.Y. - I got the first Gold top re-issue McCormacks had in 1969 ( £350 ), and Shug got his in Frankfurt 1970. It gave us that double harmony sound well before Wishbone Ash even thought of it.

10.  Were there any covers in Northwind's sets?
B.Y. -  The one’s you mentioned, but in particular “ 40,000 headmen” by Traffic, “ The Weight “ by the Band.  But “ Set the controls for the heart of the sun “ by Pink Floyd could go on for around 20 minutes in Frankfurt’s 65 Club with drum solos with tape delay featured heavily with up to 1,000 audience going daft on acid !!

11.  Got an old pic or two you could scan and send for the page?
B.Y. I’ve got quite a few good ones inc. label, cover etc. However maybe I should send them to you by post on a cd - Photoshop images as Picts, Tiffs - whatever you want.
 
12. Guess that will do.  Thanks again for then and now and all the best for the future.
B.Y. - Any more info. Just ask. Cheers. Brian.    

B.Y. - (2006) Hi Tom. 
Here are the jpegs promised yonx ago.  The color one's us in Bad Breuznach, 1970.  The stage one is us at Strathclyde Uni with Eric Burdon (we played with Fleetwood Mac around this time at Green's Playhouse).  The grass one's us with Kim Beacon at the old Kirklee station.  Cheers, Brian.