Monday, September 27, 2021

Fuchsia - Fuchsia (1971 uk, elegant prog folk rock, 2003 edition)

I was born in London, Palmers Green, (a first generation post war baby boomer!) and moved to South Africa when I was 6 months old. My family returned to England when I was 10. Then boarding school, Dover College, a middling English public school. I started playing drums at school, then guitar when I left school, and during the '60's found myself caught up in the progressive psychedelic music thing. From 1966 to 1968 I played in a band called Louise in south London, with Robert Chudley and Chris Cutler (later with Henry Cow), doing some pretty weird stuff, original songs ("Another Nail" resurfaced years later, while a recording of "Look at the Sun" could still exist somewhere!) and others with long free form sections in the middle...liquid light shows, all that kind of stuff. 

With the end of the '60's, the band was going nowhere and I felt a need to do something quite different, so I went to Exeter University to escape music for a while. Two weeks into University, and I had started writing music again, this time for a night of poetry based around Ferlinghetti's poems, on Goya's pictures of the Napoleonic wars of all things, and with a general anti war theme. I advertised for players and found a London Cockney piano player (Mick McGee) and ex colonial Dave Haskins on drums. From memory the bass player could have been Mick Day. It was a good night, which had me totally hooked into music again. Then I wrote and recorded some harder edged songs like "Ring of Red Roses", playing them at one of the Ottawa concerts in 1971, organised by Chris Cutler and featuring various luminary associates of his. I played this gig as a three piece with Chris Cutler on drums and Mick Day on bass. 

About the same period, I formed the Fuchsia band with Michael Gregory and Mick Day. I wanted to experiment with writing songs not to the normal pop format, rather a series of musical themes, which start at a particular, point and move on, without necessarily following the normal classic pop song format. Also I wanted to experiment making string parts an integral part of the song itself, rather than something added to embellish the song once written (this was pre Electric Light Orchestra, remember), so we were soon joined by Madeleine Bland (Cello), Janet Rogers (Violin) and Vanessa Hall-Smith (Viola). Also students at Exeter, the girls were from a purely classical background and wanting to do something different. It was a very adventurous project with great production difficulties in actually amplifying the strings for live performances, together with our relative lack of experience. 

We played a few gigs at the university, and recorded two songs, "Ring of Red Roses" coupled with "Shoes & Ships", at a demo studio in Torquay. A good friend in the industry, Paul Conroy, passed the demo on to Terry King, who signed us up to his new Kingdom Records label, distributed through Chrysalis Records. I think Terry was as impressed by the radically different approach to the music as he was by the fact that there were three girls in the band! We recorded the album in the early summer of '71 with David Hitchcock producing, and then went back to university, with the intention of doing a promotional tour for the album in the next holidays. The album was released with one ad in Melody Maker and some reviews in various papers, which were all very complimentory. That was the total extent of the promo it received. The proposed promotional tour disappointingly never eventuated, and after months in limbo, the project came to an end.... and a band that don't play together, don't stay together. 

We recorded another demo, ("The Band" and "Ragtime Brahms") but failed to capture a new record deal. I continued to play with the drummer and bass player, eventually ending up in London and playing round there. The Fuchsia concept revived itself in 1975, when I wrote a series of songs for a theatre show based on Brecht's Threepenny Opera, which to this day I feel was the best thing I ever did in terms of realising the true potential of the string trio/rock band ensemble. This was with various players from the London College of Music. There was some interest from Virgin records, but a miss is as good as a mile!! 

The rest is history. I played with Punchin' Judy with Greg, Robin Langridge and Keith Grant-Evans, (a true legend-Downliners Sect) and am still in touch with Keith today. This blues based band had a deal with Transatlantic Records and an LP to promote, so we played mainly university venues in England, and toured Holland.  The album was also issued (in 1972) in France too, this time by Kingdom label itself (cat. KV 6002). Fuchsia owed their name to the excellent Mervyn Peake's book Titus Groan. 
by Tony Durant
1. Gone With The Mouse - 4:59
2. A Tiny Book - 8:03
3. Another Nail (Tony Durant, Robert Chudley) - 6:57
4. Shoes And Ships - 6:14
5. The Nothing Song - 8:23
6. Me And My Kite (Robert Chudley) - 2:34
7. Just Anyone - 3:33
All songs written by Tony Durant except where indicated.
*Tony Durant - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Lead Vocals
*Michael Day - Bass Guitar
*Michael Gregory - Drums, Percussion
*Janet Rogers - Violin, Backing Vocals
*Madeleine Bland - Cello, Piano , Harmonium, Backing Vocals
*Vanessa Hall-Smith - Violin, Backing Vocals