The Bevis Frond – Past Times Ahead

Bevis Frond - Any Gas FasterWith a new album approaching, and a (nearly) thirty year catalog’s worth of reissues on the wind, it’s a good, if somewhat expensive, time to be a Bevis Frond fan.

There’s twenty-four albums out there already, plus a bucketload of singles, a mountain of various artist compilations, sundry flexidiscs, a bunch of collaborations… start collecting now, and you might just have finished by the time the last of the remasters rolls along.  Double vinyl versions of Miasma and Inner Marshland are already with us; The Aunt Winnie Album,. Through the Looking Glass and Triptych arrive next month.  And just in case you’re wondering what is this Frond of which we speak….

The Frond is Nick Salomon, an English guitarist and songwriter who emerged in the mid-1980s trailing a handful of frankly obscure past projects behind him – an early seventies project called the Bevis Frond Museum; and the punk era Von Trapp Family, who debuted Salomon’s homegrown record label Woronzow.

But it was the insurance pay out from a motorcycle accident that allowed him to equip his home studio and metamorphose into the Frond, and in 1987, when Salomon was thirty-four, Miasma debuted what would become the Bevis Frond sound, a glorious psychedelic stew that might have harked back in places to the muddy free festivals where the likes of Hawkwind and Ozric Tentacles cut their performing teeth; but also reached out in other directions, to a world of technicolor pop’n’roll – informed by everyone, indebted to no-one.

BEVIS FROND Auntie WinnieNot for the Frond a career spent recycling Syd Barrett witticisms, or Idle Race whimsy, or any of the other “it’s acid, man” mirrors that 1980s psych insisted had to be held up to the past before the future became valid.  Arguably, Bevis Frond was one of the precious few catalysts that taught the watching world that psych could move forward from its sixties peak.  And it did so by forgetting that it was meant to be psych.  It just became what it wanted to be, and dipping in and out of the Bevis Frond catalog allows even the most liberated soul to sit back and admit “I really wasn’t expecting that.”

Himself currently embroiled in the new album, even as he oversees the reissuing of the old. Salomon admits “it’s always hard to make a sensible judgement about one’s own albums. As I’ve been in the fortunate position of releasing my own stuff, I only ever put out records that I’m really happy with. Having said all that, I suppose after a certain amount of time you’re able to have a more detached view. I guess my favourite Bevis albums would be New River Head [1991], Valedictory Songs [2000] and the most recent two, The Leaving Of London and White Numbers [2011, 2013]. I think they all have a very solid mixture of good songs, good playing and they can occasionally catch you a bit off guard too.”

Now sixty-two years old, Salomon’s own musical memories reach back to the birth of rock’n’roll… among the first records he ever purchased were “Red River Rock” by Johnny and The Hurricanes (“the b-side, ‘Buckeye,’ is brilliant”) and “More and More” by Johnny Duncan and The Blue Grass Boys.

“I guess by the time I was seven I could play guitar okay, and I was even trying to write songs. Admittedly, they just sounded like a kid’s version of the stuff I was listening to, but at least I was giving it a go.”

bevis frond innerHis musical taste moved with the times.  By the late 1960s, armed with what was then the fabulously exotic technology of a cassette recorder, he was compiling compilation albums of his favorite music – “all the stuff I was into then…like Country Joe, Blue Cheer, Steve Miller Band, Ultimate Spinach, Mad River, Savage Resurrection, Clear Light, Spirit, Taste, Blossom Toes, Caravan, Electric Prunes, Hendrix, all that kind of music.”  Which, of course, bled into the music he himself was making.  But so did a lot of other things.  “A bit psychedelic, a bit indie, a bit punk, a bit pop, a bit folky, plus I’d hope there’s a bit of me in there too.”

It’s his grounding in so much past music that in many ways keeps the future alive – particularly those gigs where he suddenly finds himself playing with people whose records he was purchasing as a kid. “I mean, standing on stage with Country Joe and most of The Fish, being Barry Melto,n was bizarre. Playing guitar for Arthur Lee, that was unreal! Randy Hammon of The Savage Resurrection got up with the Frond and we did two Sav Res songs with him. Brilliant! I’ve even given Randy California a lift across London to Waterloo Station!”

Still, despite his immersion in Stateside psych, the Frond’s music remains a very English experience; no Trans-Atlantic accents or misty-eyed homages to Route 66.  “Always sung in an English accent, with UK place references,” he insists, and that’s as true across his own compositions as on the covers that he eschews on his own albums, but turns a deft hand to for compilation appearances, or live performances.

For collectors, the gathering up of so many orphan tracks is one of the most glorious benefits of the current reissue program.  And its appearance on vinyl is another.

BEVIS Triptych“I’m really pleased to see the resurgence of interest in vinyl,” enthuses Salomon.  “Bevis began just before CDs started taking off, and to my mind, though they were kind of useful, they were always an inferior product. The packaging was shit, and at first they sounded really tinny. Now they sound great, but the packaging is still crap. So, yeah, vinyl is great and the album sleeves are the right size.  I’d like to see the return of the quality album sleeve, with a laminated front and a matt back, and flip-over tops and bottoms.  [But] it’s music and art winning through.”

And the Frond winning through, too.  Album twenty-five will be with us in September; and in the lead-up to that, “lots of festivals, Glastonbury, Xiriapop in Spain, The 13th Dream Festival, The Summer Of Love Party and possibly a couple more yet to be confirmed, and then maybe an Autumn tour round Europe, and of course the Cherry Red reissue programme continues.”

Yep.  It’s a good time to be fond of the Frond.

a not-quite complete Frond albums discography

BEVIS Looking Glass1987 Miasma

1987 Inner Marshland

1987 Bevis Through the Looking Glass

1988 Acid Jam

1988 Triptych

1989 Auntie Winnie Album

1990 Any Gas Faster

1990 Ear Song

1991 Magic Eye (Bevis and Twink)

1991 New River Head

1992 A Gathering of Fronds

1992 London Stone

1992 Gulp (Magic Muscle)

Bevis Frond It just1993 It Just Is

1993 Beatroots (Fred Bison Five)

1993 Art Into Dust (Todd Dillingham and Nick Saloman)

1994 Sprawl

1995 Superseeder

1996 Son of Walter

1997 North Circular

1998 Doctor Frond (Doctor Frond)

1998 Eat Flowers and Kiss Babies (Country Joe McDonald & Bevis Frond)

1999 Vavona Burr

1999 Live At The Great American Music Hall

2000 Valedictory Songs

2001 Fed to your Head (Scorched Earth)

2002 Valedictory Demos

2002 What Did For The Dinosaurs

2003 King of Missouri (Anton Barbeau with the Bevis Frond)

2004 Hit Squad

2007 The Clocks

2011 The Leaving Of London

2013 White Numbers

2013 Live From The 4th Psychedelic Network Festival 2011

2014 High in a Flat

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