Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Story Time - Falcon : Their Place In Rock History

For many music lovers, Prog is a dirty word; an era best forgot. But to those who accept, admire and wish to re-address prog rock, then look no further than Falcon.

Falcon in 1972
 l to r; Frith, Dell-Taylor, Wicksworth, King and Bannerman 

Falcon, sometimes known as King's Falcon, were for many the great white hope of the progressive rock music scene. The line up of leader Roger King, lead vocals and guitar, Ray Wicksworth, guitar and sometime vocalist, Lester Frith on bass, Tony Bannerman the drummer and Erik Dell-Taylor, the undisputed  Viking like wizard of the keyboard and Moog synth, became something for music fans to admire and something for musicians to aspire to.

Falcon's early days can be traced back to the public schoolboy friends King and Wicksworth who in early 1967 started a blues band, The Roger King Sound. Frankly these early stages were mildly derivative of a lot of the then scene and success eluded them until they fully ensconced themselves into the faux Edwardian revival which occurred in The Summer Of Love. With King being at his most strident and powerful, often a key characteristic of his personality, he rechristened the group King's Falcon and, with his love of English history and his O Level Art, he adopted and devised his logo of Henry VIII and a blind captive falcon. Posters began to appear up and down Carnaby Street and the Kings Road creating a healthy buzz for a band who were beginning to sound more folkier and far more strange. As DJ Adam 'Muff' Peelman said around the time, "Noisy odd buggers aren't they?" and he was right.

In 1969 the band released their album Dawn Execution and it was immediately-well within a couple of months anyway-an overnight success. For a brief period that spring and summer the boys were riding the crest of a wave commercially, however personally the cracks were beginning to show and there was turmoil. Many believed Dawn's Execution, with its references to Hampton Court and the Henry VIII imagery , to be solely about that period in English history. However, what few fans realised was that at the heart of the album-the broken heart if you may-was the disintegration of frontman Roger King's to his first wife, Dawn., and her affair and subsequent relationship with the band's drummer and Welsh Druid, Tony Bannerman.

King, the driving influence of the group, was now suddenly at the wheel of a runaway car. Literally too, as after an LSD binge (from which he still receives flashbacks) he crashed the car into a tree and was admitted to hospital for treatment. From there, he was diagnosed as having suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by an extensive and prolific drug intake that only a week earlier Jimi Hendrix had warned him about. 
He was admitted into a mental home and many presumed the band was over.

However the band continued, like a Falcon rising from a phoenix rising from the flames. Renamed simply Falcon, with Wicksworth now at the helm, they achieved little success; unless you count the novelty record 'I'm A Charming Gnome' which is still a hit at children's parties today. 

Finally, a fitter and well Roger King returned to the band he created. For many this was the golden age of Falcon, an age with a lot more creativity and autonomy for King, cautious of his health had to declare the band a team effort and consent to Tony and Dawn's fruitful relationship.

In 1972, they scored a huge international hit with their concept album, Daemonologie, based on the witch trials of the 1600s.

Daemonologie by Falcon, Album Cover, 1972

Some would say this is their finest work, a seminal piece occasionally straddling metal whilst still being deeply prog and a sublime example of the genre as any.

Featuring such classic tracks as 'The Number Of The Beast' running at 7 minutes and 6 seconds (or 6.66) and the excellent 10 minute suite 'Miss Cooper's Impes-Part 1; Jack, Part 2; Prickears and Part 3; Frog' as well as the excellent 'Hopkins and Stearne' which opened side two and ran for a staggering 14 minutes but is so good it actually only feels like 13 minutes.

Daemonologie by Falcon, Album Back Cover, 1972

The seeds were sown. With their love of Albion and their creative sounds, Falcon were the biggest success progressive rock had seen to date, and The Old Grey Whistle Test was their oyster. Who can forget their glorious appearances on there? Nor Pan's Peoples own unique interpretation of 'Suckling Sabbat' when the band infamously failed to appear on Tops Of The Pops? The result of an unfortunate and near fatal incident in which Frith near choked to death on Dell-Taylor's own vomit, at a Little Chef on the A53, which fans still flock to to this day.

For many, the band could never top this classic and rightly revered album, though their are several ardent admirers of their later concept works; Spring Heeled Jack and The Pied Piper. But the piper had played his tune for the last time (though no children were harmed) and the band reached an amicable split in 1981.

But what became of these rock gods?

Roger King is now fairly reclusive and his solo work is sparse, but welcome. He has made a return to his blues roots of late, working with Clapton, but his penchant for prog and Olde England is still noticeable in his soundtrack for Nic Gilliam-Russell's epic, bloated yet realistic and grimy Arthurian film Mordred made in 1990 which he demanded percentage rights from and effectively sunk Gerry of Gerry and The Pacemakers Threadbare Films. He now lives on a multi acre farmland in Glastonbury, with his sixteen year old girlfriend whom he met whilst serving on the PTA board of his local school. Last year, in an account which is already now legendary and often humourously related, he complained to neighbour Michael Eavis about the 'unholy noise' of the festival wearing only the girl's nightie and carrying a pump action shotgun.
He still has those LSD flashbacks. 

His drummer, Tony Bannerman, who won the heart of his original fair maiden Dawn way back in 1968, still lives with her, happily, on a farm in Wales. They now speak only Welsh, own a witch museum, and sell fresh produce to passers by of a gullible nature.

Lester Frith the bass player achieved some surprising success with his solo album 'Slap This' which Melody Maker lauded, upon its release in 1979, as 'Not as annoying as you'd think for an album that sounds like wet fish being delivered in a slapdash fashion on a hostelries doorstep'. He lives quietly and security consciously on Ibiza with a lisping hairy lipped houseboy.
He remains unmarried.

Ray Wickworth is probably the most commercially successful of the group., writing several musicals for The West End, successes such as the Biblical themed 'Barabbas!',  'The Pit!' based on the Nigel Kneale Sci Fi TV show 'Quatermass And The Pit' and misfires like 'MILF!'  the ill advised 'sex opera'. A successful businessman; he has fingers in many pies, notably bakeries, and is still touring various live projects to this day. He wrote last year's Eurovision entry for the UK which score nul points. 
He spends his time in LA, Spain and Kent and has a ponytail.

Sadly 'The Master Of The Moog', the finest keyboard player this country ever produced, Erik Dell-Taylor, succumbed to a debilitating alcohol, hash and Haribo addiction and suffered sever burns when he set himself alight after smoking a Camberwell Carrott in bed. He continued with his lifelong love of antiques, running a small shop in Tintagel moderately well in the late 70s and 80s with a speciality in broadswords and pistols. But his time away from the band was short and dogged, literally, by rumours of random bestiality.
A shadow of his former self, he eventually died in a tragic flintlock accident in 1990.

But their music lives on.

Their place in rock history so richly deserved.

(c) Mark Cunliffe; Story and Art. Originally appeared in' Hackwriters' Feb 2008 and 'Eternal Lines'. Revised and Updated 2012.

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