Little Free Rock
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Here is all you wanted to know about this Heavy Rock Trio from Preston in Lancashire, England. Peter Illingworth, Lead Guitar and Vocals, Paul Varley, Drums and Frank Newbold, Bass Guitar and Vocals.
Their Eponymous Album was released in November 1969, and they were an evolution of Purple Haze whose psychedelic nuances created great interest from their conception in early 1968. Purple Haze were a highly respected three piece outfit formed originally performing covers of songs from bands like The Who, Creation, Tomorrow etc but quickly developing a style and presentation of their own. To avoid association with Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze, the name was changed to Little Free Rock from the meaning of their names. Paul means 'Little', Frank means 'Free' and Peter the 'Rock'.
Little Free Rock went on to work with Ginger Johnson's African Drummers, whose appearance with the Rolling Stones at the 1969 Hyde Park Concert in Sympathy for the Devil has created much interest. Drummers who appeared from time to to included Gaspar Lawal (Ginger Baker's Airforce), Remi Salaka (Rolling Stones), Speedy Aquay (Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames), Lofty and Mac Tonto (Osibisa), and 'Lord' Eric Carboo. On one occasion at the Chalk Farm Roundhouse there were 26 African Drummers and a Witchdoctor.
The band performed regularly at the Roundhouse Sunday Night 'Implosion' Events and had numerous residencies at the Wardour Street Marquee Club. As well as performing all over Belgium, Continental Trips included the Star Club in Hamburg, Essen Jazz and Blues Festival, and festivals in Frankfurt, San Tropez and Santa Margarita de la Costa in Italy.
CBS and Warner Brothers were becoming exceedingly interested in this new Afro Rock but only six weeks after the release on the LFR Album, Transatlantic started Breach of Contract proceedings. When CBS and Warner Brothers heard this they backed off, however, CBS said that the band was too much like Santana, whom they already represented. Unfortunately, LFR were then unable to record for Transatlantic or anyone else for that matter, which was sad as the original Contract was for 6 Albums over a three year period.
Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac) joined the band for a short period, with gigs arranged at The Marquee and The Lyceum, and invited LFR to perform on sessions for his Solo Album. Sadly, after only one gig at a club called The Night Angel Club in Soho, Peter decided that he was having too much hassle with Ginger Johnson about fees for the recording and he backed out. The tracks were never released.
The Little Free Rock Album which was released in late 1969 and has also been released on CD by LINE Records in Hamburg. CD Number TACD 9.00633. Another CD has been release featuring demos and other unreleased tracks, some which were recorded at the transition point from Purple Haze to Little Free Rock, however they are credited to the latter. They are available on the Little Free Rock Time is of no Consequence CD on World Wide Records, a division of SPM (Berlin). CD Number SPM-WWR-CD-0020.
The Little Free Rock Story by Peter Illingworth
Our band Purple Haze had reached a crossroads in our career, and we had gone about as far as we could go in Lancashire.
A girlfriend of mine, Linda Taylor, had a book on the meaning of names. She told me that Paul meant Little, Frank meant Free and Peter meant Rock, so thats how the new name came about. It also symbolised the kind of Free Rock Music that we were creating. I suppose the 'Little' portion suggested humility and for all that, we were kind-of humble. It's difficult to keep your feet on the ground when everything is going fantastically. For me also the name sounded like a Red Indian name, so, with all the imagery that that suggested we became Little Free Rock.
We had beginnings and ends to songs, whether they were our songs or other peoples, but what happened in the middle was a different nightly experience, so we were inventing and experimenting every time we played. It was fun. Obviously sometimes better than others, but only ourselves would really know that I guess.
Frank and I had been doing some writing and between us we got together about five new songs and soon to be Manager Eddie Sandham booked a cheap Demo Studio at Hendon for about £10 an hour. The tracks were Roman Summer Nights, Wait a While, Blud, Dream and Evil Woman. The engineer was rather heavy on the echo, but in retrospect, I like these better than the versions on the actual Little Free Rock Album which was released in late 1969. These tracks now appear on the Little Free Rock Time is of no Consequence CD on World Wide Records, a division of SPM (Berlin). CD Number SPM-WWR-CD-0020. The CD features demos and other unreleased tracks and were recorded at the transition point from Purple Haze to Little Free Rock, however they are credited to the latter. The original Little Free Rock Album has also been released on CD by LINE Records in Hamburg. CD Number TACD 9.00633.
We had a gig at the prestigious Preston Public Hall which is now sadly closed forever, and we were surrounded by everyone who was anyone on the scene in Preston. It had been a momentous night with the lights and explosions and a fantastic atmosphere. I think it was at this gig that Eddie announced that Transatlantic had listened to our demos, were interested in us and wanted to come and see us playing live. It was a case of do or die! Now or Never!!! We'd gone about as far as we could in Lancashire anyway!
As we always enjoyed our Connahs Quay Civic Hall Gigs we invited them to see us there, and Transatlantic's A&R Man, John Whitehead and Keith Bleasby the Distribution Manager duly came to see us perform, and offered us a Recording Contact!
Go To Little Free Rock Part I by Peter Illingworth
© all photographs copyright Peter Illingworth unless otherwise stated
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