A R T I C L E S
a n d I N T E R V I E W S
Melody Maker, 18 July 1971 by Roy Hollingworth
Wishbone: Brighter Than Bright
Deserve: To earn by service: to merit. That dictionary quotation may loom rather ominously, but I’d like you to read it, and remember it, for when we’re talking about Wishbone Ash, we’ve also got to talk about deserving things. If Jack Spratt plays every night of the week, for meat without fat, for every day of his life, and to every conceivable audience, then he deserves meat without fat. He also deserves an occasional potato. If a band, like Wishbone, play on, regardless of being fashionable, or unfashionable, liked or detested, cool or un-cool, and criss-cross this country as many times as a B.R.S. wagoner, then they deserve some recognition. If what they have been doing has been darned good into the bargain, then they deserve to be Brightest Hope. And it’s all been done without an inkling, or even merest suggestion of hype, or ear-blasting from any publicity monster. They just went out and did it themselves.
They are in the States at the moment. It’s the second time they’ve been, and it seems odd not to see their name gracing half-a-dozen gigs in the back pages of the MM. You might not have noticed, but over the past year there has been one band figuring more than most in those club ads – Wishbone. You just can’t stop ‘em working, and as it turns out now, you can’t stop people wanting them to work.
They’ve risen from the depths of very small print in the bottom right-hand corners of festival bills, to a remarkable rock band in their very own right. And if we take it on a musical level, they’ve only just started Phase Two.
Phase one brought a steady, far from incredible, start. I didn’t particularly take a liking to the album, but parts of it were good enough to say yes, promising. And besides, as a live band, they rapidly impressed upon people that they were one of the better ones to watch. And musically they got a whole lot better – by the week, by the month and now the year.
They played London’s Marquee a few months back and it stands in my memory as the best gig I’ve seen, or am likely to see, at the Marquee this year. Not just the Marquee actually, I’ll link up a load of other places.
In Wishbone’s case it’s not just a lot of supplying original rock ‘n’ roll. They supply it and they deliver it beautifully. As musicians they are terrifyingly professional – in the old sense of the word if you like. There’s no use of volume as a scapegoat for inadequacy, they are pro players and they tackle their complex workload with the ease that talent blesses on the owner. On a technical basis, the guitar partnership between Ted Turner and Andy Powell is as complete and as complementing in tandem as is good brown bread to the very best cheese. Both are outstandingly different in technique, but they merge at an enviable junction of control, from which stems correct, musical improvisation. The scores are rigid, but like locks, they are capable of opening when pressure, or lack of it is desired. The music has got to be rigid so it can stand up on its own, leaving both players with a basis that instigates freedom.
Then there’s this extraordinary bassist called Martin Turner. If you’ve seen this guy once, you can’t wait to see him again. Turner is what you might first call a chord bassist. He tends to prefer a fusion of chords, rather than riffy plodding. Not that he ignores the bass lines essential to good rock, but he modifies what has become a somewhat boring ingredient. He’s made it stand right out, and his neo-classical role is purely an example of just how far he’s got into this instrument.
Steve Upton: drummer. Well, he’s workmanlike, and he has to be. He’s tricky and precise without being sterile. He also has an unlimitable imagination, which within the Wishbone complex is given more than enough room to breathe.
When you talk to Wishbone you’ll notice that they’re modestly proud of being hard workers. They aren’t daft, they know they’re good, and they also know they’ve never got to face a pricing conscience. They’ve never done anything for gain, except when they were formed to do.
“here’s a number of soft things we like to do,” Andy Powell once told me, “and we do them. We aren’t a band who sits down and says we can’t do this ‘cause it’s not heavy. We don’t have such things as restrictions.”
Well, I’ve heard a lot of people say that, and they’ve been kidding themselves very nicely. But Powell was right, Wishbone are a warming bright hope – and it’s good to see that plain, honest hard work still pays off. Poll winners, right, and so they should be. They deserve it.