The Bevis Frond have been playing their own distinctive style of rock music for over a decade. Its leader, Nick Saloman, began perforning thirty years ago as a guitarist in cover bands during the mid 1960s in Swin-gin’ London. In 1986, Saloman released a ninety minute cassette to a few friends of himself playing original material under the alias The Bevis Frond. The Frond’s music is at times blisteringly psychedelic, other times pastoral and folk-influenced. His Woronzow label has become a cottage industry of independently produced rock, releasing albums appreciated by an expanding following.
Nick Saloman recalls his musical influences, “My earliest musical memories begin with my Mum playing the piano to me-she is a fine pianist.... I got into The Shadows and started playing guitar when I was seven. [The first concert I saw] was Frankie Vaughan in 1958-my Mum also took me to see The Beatles for my tenth Christmas present! Then as I got into my teens I started getting really interested in the psychedelic rock scene. I started going to small clubs in 1968 and more or less saw all the bands of that time onwards. I got my first band together at this time and called it The Bevis Frond Museum, playing covers of Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and Country Joe and The Fish.”
For the next decade, Saloman was a member of numerous commercially unsuccessful bands. By 1980, fed up with the lack of support his band’s, The Von Trap Family, demo received, Saloman founded the Woronzow label to release a single. Two years later, a motorcycle accident almost crippled one of his arms; Nick purchased a home recording studio with the resulting insurance settlement money.
While working as a record dealer, Saloman became close friends with writer Phil McMullen; the two frequently exchanged tapes of favorite obscurities. McMullen recalled in Magnet, “One of the tapes had this mystery track at the end, I couldn’t guess who it was, and he said, ‘Oh, that’s me.’” McMullen and other friends who heard his demos urged Saloman to release an album. The resulting Miasma, released in 1987 under the resurrected name Bevis Frond, quickly sold out a pressing of 500; it was followed by Inner Marshland, Triptych, and a collection of out takes entitled Sews Through the Looking Glass.
Nick Saloman came upon the Bevis Frond’s sound by accident. He explained to The Boston Phoenix, “When you’re [as old as I was at the time] and you’ve never gotten anywhere, you kind of think that you’ve had it. So I just started doing self-indulgent stuff on my own without worrying about things like getting a record deal. I honestly didn’t think anyone would care. But lo and behold, people were interested, and it changed my life.”
After several albums of extended, spacey jams, Bevis Frond’s 1989 album Any Gas Faster featured more concise songs and fewer guitar solos. “I’ve done a lot of albums with 20-minute guitar solos, so I don’t have anything to prove there.... I became interested in the idea that bands like The Stones, The Who, and The Move could be both chart and head bands, writing hit singles and good music,” he told Option about The Bevis Frond’s new direction.
In 1989, Saloman and Phil McMullen founded a music magazine, The Ptolemaic Terrascope. Its focus was simple, according to Saloman in Magnet, “Most magazines seemed one-dimensional. It didn’t matter if the people we wrote about were up-and-coming or past it. We just decided to write about what we liked.”
The Bevis Frond released a watershed double album in 1991, New River Head. The album covered Bevis’s musical terrain brilliantly, from the jazzy freakout “White Sun,” to the folky “Waving.” Other highlights include the straight ahead pop-rock of the title track, the garagerock raveup “Undertaker,” and the rollicking “Wild Jack Hammer,” based loosely on Mick Jagger. By the mid
Members include Cyke Bancroft (band member c. 1986-91), saxophone Dominic Colletti (band member c. 1987-90), bass; Martin Crowley (band member c. 1986-1991), drums; Graham Cumming (band member c. 1987), organ; Rie Gunther (band member c. 1990-94); Nick Saloman (born March 11, 1953, London, founder), son of Joanna (a teacher and author) and Walter Saloman (a banker and enlistee in the Royal Air Force), married Janet Saloman, has a daughter, Debbie; guitars, keyboards, vocals; Adrian Shaw (joined band c. 1990), bass, vocals; Andy Ward (born September 28, 1952, London; band member c. 1994-98), drums; Bari Watts (bandmember c. 1990-94), guitar.
Formed c. 1985 in London, England; released debut album Miasma on own Woronzow label, 1987; signed American distribution deal with Reckless Records, 1988; headlined Terrastock Festival, Providence, RI, 1997; appeared on Mary Lou Lord, Got No Shadow, Work/Sony Records, 1997; headlined Terrastock West Festival, San Francisco, 1998.
Addresses: Record company —Flydaddy Records, P. O. Box 545, Newport, RI 02840. Website— www.terrascope.org.
1990s, The Bevis Frond became too popular to remain a studio-only band, and a touring line-up solidified with former Hawkwind bassist Adrian Shaw and ex-Camel drummer Andy Ward.
In 1997, The Ptolemaic Terrascope announced that it was in financial trouble. Dozens of artists, including The Bevis Frond, created two benefit CD collections, Succour and Alms. Several bands then offered the proceeds of a concert in Providence, Rhode Island, to support the publication. According to McMullen, “It seemed like a good opportunity to bring The Bevis Frond over for an American debut and perhaps turn the gig into more of an ‘event.’” The Terrastock Festival featured an eclectic lineup, from 1960s heroes to current cutting edge bands. The festival was such a success that another was held in San Francisco in 1998. Between Terrastock events, The Bevis Frond released two excellent albums, Son of Walter and North Circular, and Saloman collaborated with Mary Lou Lord on her Got No Shadow album.
Saloman recently commented about his involvement with various rock music since the 1960s, “The major difference between [the psychedelic] scene and now is that music has become… compartmentalized. In 1969 you could see Black Sabbath supported by [folk rockers] Fairport Convention and [psychedelic jazz band] The Soft Machine… and it seemed really natural.” He continues, “I think the [1970s] progressive era was basically psychedelic musicians making lots of money and getting all the drugs and equipment they could… [and] show how brilliantly they could play…. Punk was a very welcome and necessary reaction to that, but… I was dismayed that it became really unfashionable to play an instrument properly. I’m afraid that attitude prevails in England to this day.”
With The Bevis Frond, Nick Saloman entertains fans worldwide while retaining full control of his music. He proudly asserts, “I will never sign a major label deal unless they give me huge amounts of money… everyone’s a hypocrite if the price is right!”
Miasma, Woronzow, 1987.
Inner Marshland, Woronzow, 1987.
Bevis Through The Looking Glass, Woronzow, 1987.
Tryptych, Woronzow, 1988.
The Auntie Winnie Album, Reckless, 1988.
New River Head, Woronzow, 1991.
A Gathering of Fronds, Reckless, 1991.
London Stone, Woronzow, 1992.
Sprawl, Woronzow, 1994.
Superseeder, Woronzow, 1995.
Son of Walter, Flydaddy, 1996.
Boston Phoenix, April 18, 1997.
Bucketfull of Brains, May/June, 1989; Winter, 1990.
Guitar Player, February, 1997.
Magnet, February/March, 1997.
Option, January/February, 1990.
Ptolemaic Terrascope Terrastock Special Edition, December, 1997.
Additional information was obtained from an interview with Nick Saloman.
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