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From: London, England

This high energy, London based group first started life in May, 1965 as the Alan Bown Set and was named after their leader/frontman, Alan Bown (trumpet). Other original members included Jeff Bannister (lead vocals, organ), Pete Burgess (guitar), Dave Green (saxophone, clarinet, flute), Stan Haldane (bass) and Vic Sweeney (drums). The band was heavily horn-based and initially played mainly U.S. R&B and soul. It didn't take long before record producer Tony Hatch took notice and signed them to Pye Records later in '65, but their first single ('Can't Let Her Go' b/w 'I'm The One') unfortunately didn't sell that well. In 1966, Green was replaced by John Helliwell (saxophone) and shortly thereafter, Jess Roden (lead vocals) was added to the fold, allowing for Bannister to concentrate solely on the keyboards. They were an extremely popular live act and appeared regularly on BBC radio, the TV show Ready Steady Go! and also began headlining London's Marquee Club. They then also released three more singles on Pye, none of which hit it big either, although it should be noted that their track 'Emergency 999' later became a popular Northern Soul club anthem.

In November of '66, Burgess was replaced by Tony Catchpole (guitar) and during the spring of 1967, this lineup issued a final Pye 45 ('Gonna Fix You Good (Every Time You're Bad)' b/w 'I Really, Really Care') and also recorded the soundtrack to the French film Jeu de Massacre, which features popular French pianist Jacques Loussier as well. After the band's record contract with Pye expired, Bown decided to steer things towards a more psychedelic direction, renaming the ensemble the Alan Bown! and getting them a new contract with the MGM label. From the autumn of '67 though the spring of 1968, the group issued two more singles, which for the most part have a very cheeky, British "toytown" feel to them.

The summer of '68 saw the band switch to the Music Factory label and issue another pop-psych single ('We Can Help You'), which reached the NME magazine #26 chart spot and was featured on the TV show Top of the Pops. About three months later, the group released their debut LP titled Outward Bown, which mainly contains some rather bland pop-psych numbers save the incredible 'My Girl The Month Of May', which is proudly played here on TWOS. Also included on the album is an uptempo cover of Bob Dylan's 'All Along The Watchtower', which is said to have directly inspired the arrangement of the classic Jimi Hendrix Experience rendition.

In 1969, the Alan Bown switched labels again, this time to Deram where they issued a few more singles and recorded a second LP titled The Alan Bown!. Before the album was pressed however, Roden left the fold and was replaced by Robert Palmer (lead vocals) who re-recorded the vocals for the U.K. release of the record. As an interesting note, the U.S. version of the LP was released with Roden's original lead vocals for some unknown reason. During this time, the band made an appearance on the BBC TV show Disco Two, which later became The Old Grey Whistle Test. The group also continued to frequent BBC radio where they played live in the studio, covering both the Steve Miller Band and Spirit on outstanding, "Britafied" renditions of 'My Friend' and 'I Got A Line On You', respectively.

1970 saw the outfit change record companies yet again, this time to the Island label where they recorded the LP Listen as Alan Bown, but shortly after, Palmer exited and was replaced by Gordon Neville (lead vocals), who then re-recorded the vocals before the album was eventually released. As a side note, Palmer would later go on to have a very successful solo career in the 80s and co-form the Power Station. Another single titled 'Pyramid' was then issued before Mel Collins (saxophone) joined and Andy Brown (bass) replaced Haldane . This lineup then released another LP (Stretching Out) in 1971 and made a second appearance on Disco Two. Bannister then left and was not replaced, followed by Derek Griffiths (guitar) and Dougie Thomson (bass) replacing Catchpole and Brown. This lineup forged onward until February, 1972 until finally imploding. Bown then briefly formed a completely new band with Frank White (guitar), Nick Payn (tenor saxophone, flute), Dave Lawson (keyboards), Tony Dangerfield (bass) and Alan Coulter (drums). White was then quickly replaced by Pete Goodall (guitar), and then after a concert tour, the group finally called it quits for good in July, 1972.

Artist information sources include: The book, 'Tapestry of Delights Revisited' by Vernon Joynson.

Original LPs/EPs

Outward Bown

Original LP/EP Label: Music Factory MF 12000

Released: October, 1968

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Songs from this album played on TWOS:

  • My Girl The Month Of May

Artist Compilations

Live On Air 1966-1970

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Songs from this album played on TWOS:

  • I Got A Line On You [Live 9/24/69, BBC Radio]
  • My Friend [Live 4/25/69, BBC Radio]