Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Fuchsia - Fuchsia, Mahagonny And Other Gems (1975-78 uk, delicate baroque prog rock, 2005 release)


The first three songs on the album were recorded on a primitive 1/4 track in the wilds of Torquay, in the West of England. "The Band" and "Ragtime Brahms", Maddie's title for the track, were recorded about 9 months after the 'Fuchsia' album was released. With our musical progress on hold for the best part of a year, we were looking for a new record company to record & promote us. The third song is from the original Fuchsia demo acetate. The Mahagonny project was I suppose a second incarnation of Fuchsia. In 1975/76 I wrote a series of songs for a theatre show. 

The inspiration for Mahagonny came from two works by Bertholdt Brecht and Kurt Weill, and I believe came closest to realising the true potential of the string trio/rock band ensemble. Mahagonny was based loosely on The Threepenny Opera, and The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. It was a story of urban decay and exploitation, a story told through 'black humour' and satire, of a society divided by wealth and poverty, as its protagonists go about securing their livelihoods in any way they could. The end comes as the masses eventually take up arms. Michael Gregory from Fuchsia played drums on the demos, while other players were friends I was working with at the time, or students from the Royal College of Music, London.

 I wrote and arranged the songs over about twelve months. We eventually recorded five demo tracks at 'Spaceward Studios', Cambridge, then mixed them at Majestic Studios, Clapham London. Being part of a theatre production, the aim was to secure Arts Council backing in the UK supported by a record deal. One major label was interested in signing but the deal was never done. Perhaps not too surprising as punk rock was emerging as the new 'big thing' in London. It was around this time that I recorded the next 2 songs with my good friend Bob Chudley in a small London 8 track studio. He wrote "Me and My Kite" on the Fuchsia album, and some other really good stuff, but never got the publishing deal he deserved. "I'll Remember Her Face, I'll Remember Her Name" was part of some music I recorded for a film around 1978. I love John's vocals.

Thanks to all the great people who made this music possible by contributing so much to these projects. Special thanks to my good mate Gianpaolo, at Night Wings Records.
by Tony Durant

After the premature ending of the Fuchsia experience, Vanessa played briefly with an unrecorded band called Touchstone, and Tony Durant went on playing for a while around London with Michael Day and Michael Gregory. Tony then joined the hard blues oriented Punchin' Judy led by 'leather-larynx' Barbara O'Meara (who previously sang with Old Nick, one 7" on Decca in 1971). Whilst the band had an album out on the Transatlantic record label it had all but disbanded. The only survivors from the recording sessions were Barbara, Keith Grant-Evans -ex-Downliners Sect- and Robin Langridge. So Durant and Gregory filled the gap and Punchin' MK2 toured England and Holland (where a single was also issued) and also recorded some interesting demos for an eventual second album but the album was never recorded. 

Tony, Michael, Robin and Keith became the de facto 'house' band for Transatlantic, helping out various new signings to the label. They became part of pop-reggae band Greyhound for a brief time, culminating in one excellent live performance for the Jimmy Saville Show in 1975. Tony recorded some great demos with Glenroy Oakley, the Greyhound vocalist and both Gregory and Durant played on 'The Mind Parasites' (Transatlantic, 1976), an Al Stewart sounding LP by Simon Boswell who later became a highly regarded soundtrack composer. Tony continued to write, and in 1974 began toying with the idea of writing some songs for a theatre show based on the two Brecht works. 

In 1975 Tony began work on the "Mahagonny" project. Five songs were recorded and these follow the three Fuchsia demos on the CD. Even if the musical direction was far from the first Fuchsia LP, you can clearly hear their shared heritage. Tony and Michael were joined in these recordings by friends Keith and Robin. The vocals were handled by Nick Pallett (from the late Principal Edwards Magic Theatre, the 'other' great Exeter folk-rock band) and Jan Pulsford. Jan's sister Angela (both are the elder sisters of Nigel, bassist with rock stars Bush, and Jan went on to tour with the Thompson Twins and write songs for Cindy Lauper) and a friend, Philida Ahearn, formed the string section. 

It's odd to note that, as happened with Jonesy's fourth album (also issued for the first time by Night Wings Records in 2003), it was again Richard Branson's Virgin who missed a good opportunity. 'Fuchsia, Mahagonny & Other Gems' kicks off with the two demos Fuchsia recorded after the first album was issued, when they were looking for a new label. They were out of luck, but the beautiful "The Band" and "Ragtime Brahms" show they still had huge potential. Then we hear a track from their first demo, probably the only surviving acetate, sent around the record companies by Tony and his mates, which secured them their original contract. The second track on the demo, "Shoes and Ships", was unfortunately too damaged to be recovered in its entirety, with a slightly different arrangement including a French horn part not included in the album version. 

Next up are the Mahagonny demos, followed by two great songs by Bob Chudley (who also co-wrote "Another Nail" on the first album). After having occasionally worked with Chris Cutler (his and Tony's old pal in psychedelic band Louise), this underrated songwriter continued to write without finding a publisher. Luckily, some of his songs were recorded with Tony, these demos being Bob's last venture into serious songwriting. Finally, as the icing on the cake, we've added a great folk-rock song, "I'll Remember Her Face", recorded in 1978 and sung beautifully by John Tams, then of the Albion Band (along with Michael Gregory and Pete Bullock). The song was composed with other incidental music for a film production called "The Golden Medallion".

1978 was a magic year for Tony. By chance he met Dave Warner, an emerging Australian punk songwriter, and they recorded some demos in London. At the same time he worked with an old Exeter University mate Steve Jamieson on his Zero Zero project. There was a lot of interest in this band around the London 'scene' and EMI provided some studio time. Zero Zero produced a good single but no follow up, even if an album worth of material was recorded. Meanwhile Warner's demos attracted some strong interest in Australia and Tony joined him in Melbourne for the first national tour of Warner's band - Dave Warner From The Suburbs. Tony produced the band's first album, 'Mug's Game' and it moved up the charts. When back in London, Pete Farndon of the Pretenders contacted Tony through some mutual friends, Aussie folk icons the Bushwackers who Farndon had previously been playing with in Australia. The Pretenders were then an unsigned band and Pete Honeyman Scott was considering leaving. Farndon was looking for a replacement but Pete made the right decision and stayed with the band. Tony flew back to Australia where Warner was riding a wave of success and based himself in Perth. The collaboration with Dave lasted for two years before Tony moved on into production, jingles and advertising. 

In the early '90's Tony moved to Sydney with a new Polygram publishing contract. The band, Cat's Crafty went on to produce some great music, but never signed a record deal and eventually folded. On a bibliographic note, it is interesting to know that Nick Pallett went on to sing with Contempt in '77 together with Howard Paul and Robin Langridge, who in turn played with Medium Medium, Karel Fialka, Michael O'Brien, Ivor Biggun, Annabel Lamb, Paul Roberts, Ofra Haza, Sniff'n Tears and joined for a while the reformed Downliners Sect, of course with Keith Grant-Evans. Keith deserves a page on his own, with a career that included lesser known bands like Magnet (led by Mick Cox of Eire Apparent and Van Morrison fame), Nasty (around 1970/72, with Dave O'List!), a collaboration with ex-Magnet Tony Kelly in 1972 and a band called Tarot in 1976. Today Keith is still playing with Downliners Sect, helped by Alan Brooks (from Punchin' Judy MK1) and Alan's old pal in the sixties band (Purple) Barrier, Del Dwyer. 
1. The Band - 3:21
2. Ragtime Brahms - 5:02
3. Ring Of Red Roses - 4:02
4. Prologue - 5:43
5. Pirate Jenny - 3:44
6. Mr. Munch's Interminable Lunch - 5:26
7. Drunken Meanderings - 4:22
8. Behind Innocent Eyes - 3:52
9. Absent Friends - 4:36
10.Mary Used To Play The Piano (Robert Chudley) - 2:15
11.I'll Remember Her Face - 2:32
All songs written by Tony Durant except where indicated
Tracks 1-3 as Fuchsia
Tracks 4-8 as Mahagonny
Tracks 9-10 as Robert Chudley
Track 11 The Golden Medaillion

*Tony Durant - Guitars, Lead Vocals
*Michael Gregory - Drums, Percussion
*Michael Day - Bass (Fuchsia, Robert Chudley)
*Janet Rogers - Violin (Fuchsia)
*Madeleine Bland - Cello (Fuchsia)
*Vanessa Hall-Smith - Viola (Fuchsia)
*Jan Pulsford - Vocals (Mahagonny)
*Nic Pallett - Vocals (Mahagonny)
*Robin Langridge - Keyboards (Mahagonny)
*Keith Grant-Evans - Bass (Mahagonny)
*Angela Pulsford - Violin (Mahagonny)
*Philida Ahearn - Cello (Mahagonny)
*Bob Chudley - Vocals, Guitar (Robert Chudley)
*Andrew Wilson - Keyboards (Robert Chudley)
*John Tams - Vocals, Accordion (The Golden Medallion)
*Pete Bullock - Piano (The Golden Medallion)