Interesting to note in last month's Newsblogger that JD Hughes from Gravy Train got a mention in the "What are they doing now" section (#5). They were a good band in their day and John was a very accomplished musician in his youth playing all manner of instruments from flute and saxophones to a variety of keyboards. His playing on Gravy Train's eponymous debut album from 1970 is especially good as his flute is featured heavily, almost battling with the lead guitar. It was a ground breaking album at the time and the 16 minute "Earl of Pocket Nook" is particularly impressive in the days when improvisation and composition went hand in hand (see also Traffic, Cream and King Crimson). A shame really that by their 4th and final album "Staircase to the Day" that the band had mellowed out somewhat and John had almost given up performing flute and sax, concentrating on keyboards instead, which gave the band a completely different sound. Alas, fame and fortune were never achieved. They remained a cult band but still have a following today as can be seen by the albums being re-issued over the years. Other bands of that era (some a lot less competent) enjoyed more success and it's always been a mystery to me that the band members disappeared from the musical radar when Gravy Train finally called it a day. Now we know at least where JD Hughes is. Having worked as Head of Music in Wigan he's now playing in a covers band called Summer Wine. A decent enough way to make a living of course but a far cry from the progressive and experimental music he started out with in 1970. By the way, if any fans out there still have the original 2nd album "A Ballad of a Peaceful Man" on Vertigo Records (with the spiral swirl logo) give yourself a pat on the back as according to Record Collector magazine it's currently worth 325 quid!!! Anyone out there with memories of the band, especially live gigs etc.?
Wandering round a Berlin fleamarket today I stopped at a second-hand record dealer and browsed through his collection picking out some German rock classics. Suddenly the fella next to me pulls out Gravy Train's first album and starts to inspect it. I couldn't help it and blurted out "Buy it! It's a great album, one of the band went to my school!" He gave me a quizzical look, a nod, had another look but put it back. I was kind of disappointed that I already had it otherwise I would have snapped it up.