Greenslade - Spyglass Guest - 1974

The first post will be for an album and not for a song. Most of the times, I will try not to post LPs that can be found on other blogs except for some important albums, such as this one. Strangely, although all the Greenlade albums have been reissued in CD, this one is not available anymore. Unfortunately, this is my favorite one from this progressive band. The great Dave Lawson (ex Web, ex Samurai and future sound designer for Kate Bush) composed here his best songs and had quite a freedom it seems to arrange them the way he wanted. Enjoy here.


Here under, an interview I did via mail with Dave Lawson (second left on the above photographs) at the end of 2008. This was translated and published in French in the music mag called Xroads. Here the original version.

dk. For me I Spider from Web is one of the great underrated albums of the seventies. You joined the group for this album (their 3rd). It seems you were very involved in its making. Is it true?

DL. I wrote all the material for the album and because the members of WEB were all skilled musicians and readers I wrote the arrangements as well which cut down the amount of time required to rehearse the new pieces.

dk. Do you remember what other progressive bands of the time you felt belonging to the same musical family?

DL. I/We were not influenced by any other bands of that time but there were some interesting bands doing the same festivals and gigs.

dk.To what elements do you attribute its failure to get the credit it deserved at the time?

DL. We were not a band with instant appeal, unless of course you were a fellow musician
Consequently the material required more than one play to appreciate the detail.

dk.Is this failure was the reason you chose to change the name of the band? But why Samurai?

DL. We decided to change the name because of the old image that WEB had, which was more soul-based. Samurai was chosen because we liked the name and the image that it suggested, none of us were into martial arts by the way.

dk.Is the change of name was also an attempt to try some thing else? The music is quite different, maybe more based on a quiet climax than Web. Medodies are also less catchy.

DL. There wasn’t a conscience decision to change musical direction, it was a natural evolvement as again I wrote and arranged the material. I suppose if there had been a third album then it might well have changed again.

dk.Was your involvement similar in Samurai than in Web?

DL. As I’ve said in the previous paragraph. I wrote the material but I was not leading the band, we were all equal in decision making.

dk.The Samurai album has (for me) a really ugly cover, not at all appropriate to the music. Do you remember who was responsible for this choice?

DL. It’s one of those covers which you either like or loathe. The artist responsible for the cover had carte blanche to do whatever he liked. The result is a little bit tongue in cheek, the guy rolling a joint for example was thought to be me, it wasn’t.

dk.Same question than for I Spider: how do you explain (if you can) the absence of public interest for the album?

DL. The lack of any commercial success with the ‘I Spider’ album could be that it was hardly promoted, had very little air-play, had low-profile gigs etc but also was musically challenging for the music buying public of that time and it has been suggested that it was ahead of it’s time, maybe the public were behind their time.

dk.Can you tell us in some words the period leading from the split of Samurai and the genesis of Greenslade?

DL. Tony Reeves was a director at the Greenwich Gramaphone Company. Samurai were signed to them. As Samurai ground to a halt through lack of funds, gigs etc Tony mentioned that his colleague Dave Greenslade was putting a band together and it involved the use of two keyboard players. I had a blow with them and we hit it off socially as well as musically.

dk.To have Roger Dean for the cover of the first album has surely been a good point for driving the interest of the press and the public. How did it happen? How a band could ask for a Roger Dean cover at that time (we are in 1972)?

DL. Roger had been involved with ‘YES’ and we, (Greenslade), liked their music but also liked their art work and so Roger was asked if he would design our first album cover.

dk.In Greenslade, your role in composing seems to grow album after album. Did you really work together with Dave Greenslade or did you compose separately?

DL. A little of both. If Dave G. came up with a chord sequence I would put a top line and lyric on the piece but sometimes DaveG. Would have a melody in mind as well, so it was just a case of writing a suitable lyric. As the band grew there were times that we wrote independently because we felt that the live gigs should have ‘feature’ spots
That would also give more light and shade to the set.

dk.Now an important point for me: your voice. I think that it shares a lot with the voice of Barry Ryan (a singer I am really fond of). Even the melodies (in particular Bedsides manners are extras) are often in a similar vein (and should have given birth to hits I think). Can you tell me frankly about this comparison? Were you aware of it at the time?

DL. I wasn’t aware of the similarity with Barry, to be honest he is a much better singer than I could ever be but thanks for the compliment.

dk.Strangely, in the last album, Time And Tide, you changed your voice. There is more raucity in it. Was it voluntary?

DL. I think as you do more live work the voice can get rougher but there was no deliberate effort made to change the timbre.

dk.Melodically, you are for me the composer who approached to the nearest the musical genius of Brian Wilson musical world. Do you are a great fan of the Beach Boys?

DL. Brian Wilson will be remembered as a true pioneer and I do admire his works tremendously, I suppose ‘Rainbow’ was a sub-conscious homage to Brian.

dk.My favorite Greenslade album is Spyglass Guest. Was there something special in this period that you were so inspired? Do you personnaly have one favorite Greenslade album?

DL. I suppose if I had to chose one ‘Spyglass’ would be a contender but I don’t have an outright winner.

dk.How was the commercial status of Greenslade during its 4 year of existence? In particular compared to bands like Gentle Giant or Van Der Graaf Generator second generation?

DL. The commercial status was nothing like the bands that you’ve mentioned but that again was down to the ‘suits’ who determined that we were not selling enough records to warrant a push.

dk.Time & Tide was not so satisfying to my view. Was there some tension in the band, a tiredness maybe?

DL. As per my previous answer, the climate in the band had changed, there was a little unrest and a sense of “is there any point?”

dk.After the split it seems quite stupefying that you did not record a solo album since you were the only singer-lyricist-music maker of the band? Can you tell us about your state of mind during the months and the years following the split?

DL. I still carried on writing and still do but I haven’t really finished anything. The solo album is still in the back of my mind but I’m a perfectionist and I wouldn’t make an album I wasn’t 100% happy with. As to the state of my mind after leaving Greenslade, I got into session work and became quite busy. I’m not a huge fan of live music, the sound is mostly awful and playing the same material every night can and does become boring. I like being at home and writing and recording there.

dk.You worked with Kate Bush on the Dreaming and Hounds of love albums (the two best for me) and your work on Cloudbusting is pure genius. How did this collaboration happened?

DL. I was working with a great engineer and friend Paul Hardiman and he recommended me to Kate as a possible player/arranger. Coincidently Kate used to live a few mile away from me and so we met up on numerous occasions to get the feel right for the material she was working on. She asked me to do an arrangement for ‘Houdini’ but
Instead I wrote a little interlude piece based on my feel of the situation between Harry and his wife, he believed in an afterlife.

dk.In the Kate Bush musicians, there was Stuart Elliott, ex-drummer of Steve Harley and for me one of the best on this planet. It would have been fabulous that you form a band with him. Did you have some opportunities or envy to start a new band during the years following Greenslade (except Stackridge)?

DL. I had no ambition to start a new band after Greenslade but I did record some stuff with Chris Squire and Alan White and there was a possibility of Jimmy Paige joining us but it never got passed the managers.

dk.You then became a famous and successful composer and sound designer for films or series. How did it happen and how do you feel in this role compared to the band work?

DL. I was doing some sound effects for a David Bowie film called ‘The Hunger’. Tony Scott, the director of the film, used to visit my London studio and I ended up doing some extra pieces for the film. I then did a few ads and it grew from there.

dk.You were not of the Greenslade reformation some years ago. Why? I thought maybe it was too difficult to imagine singing again the melodies you wrote at a time you were much younger.

DL. I would have liked to have joined the rest of the guys for the reformation but I had previous session work which was already booked and so I couldn’t let the composer down.

Best regards to you, I’m sorry it’s taken me a while to reply.