“Eyes Wide Open: True Tales of a Wishbone Ash Warrior”
By Andy Powell with Colin Harper
Jawbone Press (Paperback)
By Dave Thompson
Wishbone Ash fans have always received the sticky end of the proverbial stick. Best known in modern rock circles as purveyors of 1972’s so triumphant “Argus” album, and second-best known for their sheer longevity, Ash are one of that select handful of bands whose name and reputation will always bring the crowds out, but whose actual story — not to mention the bulk of their music — is largely a blank page.
No longer. Anyone familiar with co-author Colin Harper’s past ruminations on John McLaughlin and Bert Jansch will be unsurprised to learn that this is a hefty tome, 400-plus pages that delve so deep into the life of Wishbone Ash that, any page now, you expect to discover what color toilet paper they preferred. In the end, you don’t.
But Andy Powell certainly pulls no punches in every other department, as he details how the past 46 years have soared past not only with the expected highs, lows and mediocre middling bits, but also delves deep into some of the less savory aspects of the modern rock circus … no, not the groupies and the drugs and stuff, although they certainly get a look in. But the stealth with which so many other forces have moved in to hijack the music industry, not least of all lawyers, accountants and whatnot, and the sad fact that, for too many bands, the past is just a pension plan.
Not so Wishbone Ash, whose last album, “Blue Horizon,” was released just last year, the work of the 12th successive lineup of the band, and Powell discusses it (and its immediate predecessors) with at least as much enthusiasm as he reserved for any earlier album — or, at least, post-”Argus” album. That album’s place in both history and his story can never be understated, of course; nor can its signal influence on a host of (largely American) bands to come.
Indeed, had Wishbone Ash’s career been built around that album alone, their overall importance would scarcely have been dented. But we’d have lost out on a lot more great albums, and we’d probably not now be reading a great book about them. So crank up “Pilgrimage,” “There’s the Rub” and “Front Page News,” or any other Ash can of your particular choice, and lose yourself in the pages of Andy Powell’s mind. Your eyes will be open even wider by the end.