Sunday, March 25, 2007

Parchment's last member

We've been privileged to hear from Pete Yates-Round, the last band member to join Parchment.

Pete has answered a number of questions for us and also given an account of his time with Parchment and how he came to join the band. It's a great story. We'll report on some of his other answers in the future - as they relate to other topics covered on this site.

Pete places the band's last gig, and effective end, at the Greenbelt Festival in summer 1978, when they ended with a rousing performance of Light Up the Fire.

We asked Pete what it was like playing with Parchment.

His reply: "A fantastic experience: It was a great blessing and honour to be involved with such great people as Sue and John. I think it is fair to say we pushed the boundaries of Christian music during our time together. I know I came in at the tail end but my time with the band was the most concentrated and rewarding time. I met and worked with the best and hopefully the albums which I worked on with the others will stand the test of time and be an inspiration to others.

"As for our public and fans? Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant! The lasting memory of Parchment will always be the final Greenbelt gig when we sang as final farewell 'Light up The Fire' and 30,000 people sang the entire song back to us!"

Pete told us how he came to join the band. Here's his story:
"I think that it is safe to say that Parchment helped change the way that Christian music was accepted by an older Christian generation that was struggling to understand the then modern music culture.

"I remember seeing Parchment from afar at the Festival of Light concert in Hyde Park when they were appearing with Gordon Giltrap and others. I really felt inspired to go back to my church youth group and start writing and singing songs of a more contemporary nature. The Christian music revolution had begun; we suddenly had a bridge that connected our secular tastes with our worship music. We were able to express our beliefs and feelings with our own musical styles. Suddenly we had Christian 'pop stars' and although there was suspicion from some of the older Christian folk that this would lead us all away from the light, others were delighted that suddenly more young people were joining congregations across the country.

"Apart from my local performances in my home town Tonbridge, my Christian musical career really leapt forward when I was asked to join the Christian band Narnia, fronted by the couple Pauline and Jack Filby. We all lived at Cliff Richards house in Little Dunmow, Essex which he donated as a Christian Arts Centre and which was run by Jack and Pauline.

"These were great days as I was able to write and play with great musicians as John Russell (Starship,ATF) Tim Hatwell and of course the hugely talented Pete Banks (After the Fire). We rubbed shoulders with Cliff and guests which included, Mick Abrahams (Blodwyn Pig) Tony Rivers (Strawbs) and even Eric Clapton.

"It was whilst working with Narnia I was first exposed to TV, Radio and appearances at such venues as Upstairs at Ronnie Scott's, The Marquee club and the famous Concerts in St Pauls Cathedral.

"I then had the opportunity of joining an international rock youth group named Credo, (this is where I met and worked with Jan van Srallen, lead guitarist with Whitsuntide Easter, we became firm friends, and it was my influence to include them and new band Voiz onto the Grapevine label) which was based in Holland but then toured Europe and the USA. At 17 (1973) this was a real adventure for me, so I joined and so began my love of being on the road, I lived out of a suitcase for the next eight years.

"After my tour with Credo, I returned to Holland and started to work on the Youth for Christ coffee bar circuit. The Dutch loved the English Christian musicians, and I toured with some great acts, such as Fish Co, Nutshell and of course Parchment.

"I worked for two weeks in Steenwijk with Sue, John, Nick, and Brian as their support and naturally we all got to know each other extremely well. We would jam together and I was overawed that these guys really appreciated my music.

"To complicate matters I was talent spotted by the then CBS label one night and put under contract. The terms insisted that I stay in Holland and wait for my turn to be groomed. I had no real desire to stay and wanted to get back to England and re-establish contact with Sue and John. I did a bunk, and met up with the band in Covent Garden, Brian had decided to leave and they needed a third person for the Chepstow gig. I naturally obliged, and that was the start of the new era."

He added: "You will notice that during those early years a lot of the most gifted and musically influential young Christians' emerged. Paul Field, Steve Rowles, Steve Fairney, Mo Macaferty, Mal Grolsh and many others helped influence and inspire a whole succession of generations to give Christ inspired music the recognition and acceptance that it needed to prove an effective witness."

Pete still lives in Bristol where the band was based in its final years.

He told us: "I stayed in Bristol met my wife and have two grown up girls. I have had a succesfull time in the motorcar business and now work as a consultant to several Prestige manufacturers. I also have a magazine which is just coming up to its first anniversary. I am still involved with the local village Church and community. I keep in regular contact with my great mate Nick Ryan (Bass player writer and producer) and spend quite a lot of time at his mountain home and studio in Kerry South West Ireland writing and recording."

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Hollywood Sunset

Hollywood Sunset was released in late 1973 by Pye with publicity in the national music press. In December 1973 BUZZ magazine promised a review of the album and an interview with the band in the next issue.

The interview appeared but not the review. And, remarkably, throughout the interview the new album was never referred to by name but only as "the new album".

Why could this have been? Hollywood Sunset was one of two albums to break the mould of the Jesus music scene at this time. The other was Larry Norman's So Long Ago the Garden. The magazine was similarly dismissive of Norman's controversial album, which, in its various pressings, contained little "evangelistic" material and a great deal of sharp comment and introspection.

Whilst BUZZ's parent organisation, Musical Gospel Outreach had pioneered the use of contemporary music styles, it's name indicates the belief that the music was largely there to support evangelisation.

Hollywood Sunset never once mentioned the name of Jesus or God. Just two songs had an explicit Christian message, Gift and Death in Jerusalem. You are my morning was a worship song with ambiguous lyrics. There was road music, urban angst, mysticism and some mild eroticism.

It was intended to break Parchment out of the Christian ghetto and establish them as serious recording artists. It was a professionally produced, early 70s pop album - but was probably about 12 months too late in terms of the rapidly-shifting 1970s pop tastes. It remains a great album and like all four Parchment albums is best listened to as a whole.

Although its pop-style makes it in some ways more dated than the other three albums, it's also probably the strongest lyrically. Songs like You are my morning, Gift and Getting out of this town are beautifully crafted whilst Dobbie's Song and I'm a Man expressed a thoughtful mysticism. The title track, written a couple of years before Star Wars transformed Hollywood's fortunes, seems quite meaningless now but has a classic Parchment sound whilst Death in Jerusalem's freaky electronic effects make it a psych folk classic.

John Pac told Buzz interviewer Danny Smith: "I think it's wrong to trick people into the concert and then to bang the gospel at them. If the music is related to their lives, they're prepared to listen."

Danny Smith wrote: "Parchment's struggle to retain their artistic integrity has caused concern - even doubts and rumours about their Christian commitment."

Pac responded: "People might feel we've compromised but that's not so..."

Curiously the water-coloured sunset cover was echoed by Sue Mack's band River on their second album Rise Like the Sun.

Here's the review that Buzz could have written: "A mould-breaking second album from our greatest band. You don't think it's a Christian album? Check out the ballad Gift and the barnstorming Death in Jerusalem. The album shows the band at their song-writing best with profound and poetic lyrics in songs such as You are My Morning and sing-a-long melodies on songs like Butterfly. Are Parchment still a folk band? This is as much pop as folk but there are still the distinctive harmonies, the mandolin, the dobro and the furiously played acoustic guitars.This is very much a road album, a bunch of musicians leaving their native Liverpool to see the wider world. But will it break the band out of the Christian ghetto? We fear not but hope they won't give up and will continue to write and record innovative and cutting edge music."

Here is that BUZZ interview in full from January 1974.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Live in 73!

Thanks to Roel Velema for these pictures of Parchment performing live in the Netherlands in the summer of 1973. The pictures show John Pac, Sue McClellan and a third member, who must be Jeff Crow. Crow joined them in 1973 but never appeared on a published album with the band although he may have performed on the third lost album that was never released by Pye.

Here is Roel's account:
"Friesland, Summer 1973. Together with two friends, we sailed the lakes of Friesland (the northwestern province of The Netherlands). One afternoon we tied up the boat in Sneek, a town in Friesland. Soon we discovered that Youth for Christ had tent meetings there. We - convinced and dedicated Christians - decided to visit those meetings.

To our surprise we were treated that evening to a concert of extraordinary quality by a British group I never forgot: Parchment.

Promptly that evening I bought their two records: Light up the Fire and Hollywood Sunset. The group personally signed the latter album and I treasured both albums ever since.

Later Parchment also performed a few songs on Dutch television.

So enjoy the three pictures I took that evening in Sneek."

Note: We're planning a feature on the Hollywood Sunset era in the near future. The album was officially released in late 1973.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

More albums

Dave and Dana Come on In 1976/1977. Producer John Pantry. Pilgrim Records?
I've managed to obtain a US version of this lost treasure, distributed by Sound III in Kansas, possibly this duo's first album. It's more patchy in quality than Grapevine's Morning Star, relying heavily on songs written by contemporary gospel stars. However Dana Lee Price's voice and Dave Price's guitar work continue to charm and John Pantry's production skills create some neat effects. Pantry produced all four Parchment albums. Parchment's Pete Yates-Round was on the drums. Best tracks and those most likely to appeal to readers of this blog are the self-penned tracks, Come on In and Remain in Me, the sitar-based Melchisedek, a version of the Meet Jesus Music song, and Troublesome Waters, a US country gospel song turned to acid folk.

Dave Price was a Londoner whilst his wife was from Maryland, USA, but gains the title of honorary Brit for her vocal qualities.

Rufaro Rufaro. 1977. Producer John Pac. Pilgrim 432.
This trio, two guys and a girl, seem to have come from South Africa. Despite the blood-drenched album sleeve, they are not heavy metal, as I previously guessed, but a folk trio in the 60s Peter, Paul and Mary style. Best track is the African song Rufaro. Otherwise mostly rather bland with quite a lot of piano. They issued two other albums with Pilgrim so must have had a decent following. These were Person to Person Pilgrim 450 and Take Away the Stone Pilgrim 480

Three pilgrims

Here's a page from a four page pull out in BUZZ magazine, October 1977, marking the band taking over production at Pilgrim Records and the release of their last album Rehearsal for a Reunion. Oddly the piece did not mention the launch of the Grapevine Label.