Velvett Fogg was formed in 1968
out of a respectable Brum band called Gravy Train.
They were fronted by soul singer Ernie Handy
and the guitarist at that time was Bob Hewitt.
The other band members were drummer
Graham Mullett, bass guitarist Mick Pollard,
and Londoner Frank Wilson
who played Hammond organ.
The band were soon off to Germany where they spent most
of the year playing at army bases and clubs.
Their exciting stage act included a light show and a go-go dancer
(who later married Ernie).
Upon returning to Birmingham, the band, now managed by an agency
called Inter City Artists, was given a record deal
by Jack Dorsey of Pye Records.
At this time it seemed that the more unusual or controversial a band was,
then the greater chance there would be for success in the record business.
The record label was looking to sign unusual “underground” acts
and Velvett Fogg were told to, in Jack Dorsey’s words,
“develop an image that would make people think you would piss on the pope”!
The initial line-up of Velvett Fogg featured guitarist
Tony Iommi (later to make the big time with Black Sabbath).
Tony stayed in the line-up for only one gig before leaving to be replaced
temporarily by Ian Leighton – described as “a great blues guitarist”
by his friend Frank Wilson.
It was during this time that Pye Records
arranged a photo-shoot of the band for the cover
of their proposed first album (more about that later).
Material for the Velvett Fogg album would be supplied
by local songwriter/guitarist KEITH LAW
who became a friend of the band.
KEITH was a veteran of the West Midlands music scene
having played in THE WILLIAMSONS, LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING
PAINT , and JARDINE
KEITH takes up the story; “I was in the Rum Runner
one night, when someone told me that Velvett Fogg
were looking for new material, and they introduced me to them.
I arranged to meet them at their rehearsal place, Langley Baths.
I went along the next day, and went through the following songs with them:
Yellow Cave Woman,
Within’ The Night and Once Among The Trees and that was it!
The next couple of days, they were in London recording”.
Before recording could begin in late 1968, Ian Leighton departed
Velvett Fogg and was replaced by guitarist/vocalist
Paul Eastment (a cousin of the band’s previous guitarist
Paul Eastment was also to contribute original compositions
for the album along with Frank Wilson, Graham Mullet
and Mick Pollard.
Velvett Fogg recorded the tracks for their debut album
under direction of Pye producer
Apparently, Dorsey aimed to get the band
onto the then-popular “progressive” band wagon.
“I was a classically trained pianist but we all had to play way
below our capabilities” says Frank Wilson.
The band were also allowed to record covers of a few songs they liked
and these included psychedelic-sounding versions of
New York Mining Disaster 1941 by The Bee Gees,
and Tim Rose’s Come Away Melinda.
Velvett Fogg self-titled album was released on the,
Pye label in January of 1969.
Despite what some may have thought, the album stands up
as a fine example of late 1960s British psychedelia.
As well as the previously mentioned covers,
original compositions such as Yellow Cave Woman
and Once Among The Trees are both hypnotic if not compelling.
By contrast, other tracks like Lady Caroline
and Plastic Man had both homicidal and political overtones respectively.
By far the most controversial feature of the Velvett Fogg album
was the record cover.
It displayed the pre-Paul Eastment line-up
of the band wearing garish make-up/body-paint and costume
but also included two well-endowed young women
wearing nothing but strategically applied body paint!
This politically-incorrect package was accompanied
by a typically obscure sleevenote by the influential U.K. disc jockey
John Peel who commented
“There is a lot of good music on this record.
Remember Velvett Fogg – you will hear the name again.”
Along with theVelvett Fogg album,
also released a single by the group.
It was a cover of the Tornado’s
classic instrumental Telstar
and was recorded by the band
as requested by Jack Dorsey
who hoped to cash in
on the publicity,
surrounding the American moon landings
taking place at that time.
While receiving some radio play, the record did not sell
enough copies to chart and a big advertising campaign
planned by the record company to promote the album
The band did a bit of touring after the single came out.
Perhaps discouraged by poor sales of the Velvett Fogg album,
Pye seemed to lose interest in the band
so withdrew their backing.
In the autumn of 1969 the group disbanded with the members
going their seperate ways.
Frank Wilson says
“I personally thought the first line-up in Germany
was the best and most satisfying.”
He returned to London and joined Riot Squad
and then The Rumble Band before following in
Rick Wakeman’s footsteps to join Warhorse in 1970.
Paul Eastment started a Brum band called
Holy Ghost– later to become Ghost
with whom he recorded a couple of albums.
He later fronted another group called Resurrection
as well as recording with local folk singer Shirley Kent.
KEITH LAW stayed in the music business, is still writing songs,
and is now a successful entertainer in the South-West of England.
During the years since Velvett Fogg’s demise,
demand amongst collectors for copies of their
(now very rare) album has increased considerably.
Original albums have changed hands for high prices
with bootleg copies also known to be in circulation.
Fortunately, in 2002 the Sanctuary Records Group Ltd.
re-issued the album officially for the first time on CD (CMRCD619)
and it is strongly recommended for those who are fans
of the British psychedelic or early progressive sounds
of the late 1960s.
Yellow Cave Woman,
“in my opinion it is still
one of THE very best rock songs ever recorded.”
“Probably the best psych/prog song from the late 60’s”
“This is one of the most druggy songs I’ve ever heard,
and is an absolute cert in my record collection”.
“in my record cellection….jupp”
“I do sense a relation to Black Sabbath-
kind of explains the origins of their sound-
even though Iommi is not on this recording-
his influence must’ve stayed with
Velvet Fogg at this time”
“The music and the body painting are both great!”
KEITH LAW is still writing and recording
and is also a successful entertainer
who are one
of the most
KEITH and Frank,at the Holiday Inn,Maidstone,Kent, UK. January 2009
KEITH LAW and Frank Wilson, founder member, vocalist and keyboard player,are back together writing and recording as Velvett Fogg Reloaded
and are currently working on their new new album
Velvett Fogg Reloaded
Like I Know Johanna
“Incredible music. Thank you for creating this. It is an inspiration for me.”
Goblins and Kings
“Another great piece of music from you guys. I miss quality stuff like this. ”
“Remember Velvett Fogg – you will hear the name again”…(John Peel. 1969 )
Read more: http://www.myspace.com/velvettfogg
Compiled by Keith Law