Colin H on Vincent Crane
As requested over at the mental illness thread, here’s a piece on Vince Crane written in 2004 for a magazine but never published. I have a feeling I may have posted this before on a previous version of the AW. Still, here it is… The 2CD VC compilation ‘Close Your Eyes’ (one disc Atomic Rooster, one disc other items and rarities) is recommended.
‘There was always the sense that it could slip out of control,’ says Roger Glover, engine room of Deep Purple, ‘a lot of heart, a lot of attack, a lot of flailing of hair. That’s probably my over-riding image of Vincent Crane: the flailing hair! Organists at that time – Jon Lord and Keith Emerson, they were the ‘twin towers’, and Vincent was right there with them. Even though Emerson threw knives at his thing, it was all very controlled. Vincent was more of a wild man. He looked great on stage – and there was a chance that this machine might run amok.’
Thirty-five years ago, on Friday August 29 1969, the world – or that part thereof which had wandered up The Strand at midnight, paid their 20 shillings and remained conscious till sunrise – beheld the official debut of Vincent Crane’s Atomic Rooster: a new kind of power trio, a talked-of successor to the Cream and a keyboard-led rival to Keith Emerson’s The Nice. The latest in a series of multi-band extravaganzas, The Lyceum’s ‘Midnight Court’ that night saw Rooster – chart-topping, road-hardened Crazy World Of Arthur Brown veterans Crane and Carl Palmer plus new boy Nick Graham on bass, vocals and flute – headline over Cream lyricist Pete Brown’s Piblokto and, playing only their ninth gig (fee: £75), the Mk 2 Deep Purple.
A month later Purple debuted their Concerto For Group & Orchestra and their star highway was revealed; but for Rooster, on paper at least, they never rose any higher than that first night. Hugely talented, obsessively focused and tragically doomed by depressive illness from day one, Vincent Crane – who was to take his own life in 1989, largely forgotten by the music world – remains the lost soul of British rock. Striving, through endless line-ups and the false promise of brief chart success, to create a chimerical fusion of British progressive rock and Afro-American soul/funk, Crane ran Rooster like a military operation: hiring and firing at will until, at some vague point in the middle seventies, press and public, baffled, just lost interest.
Back in that summer of ‘69, managed by the star-making Robert Stigwood Organisation and launching off the back of Arthur Brown’s phenomenal success the previous year with ’Fire’ (co-written and arranged by Crane), a rosy future seemed guaranteed:
‘To be honest,’ says Carl Palmer, ‘at a prestige place like the Lyceum it didn’t actually matter who was on last – and you could argue that going on early is better than going on later when everyone‘s drunk!’
‘Actually, the only thing about that show I remember,’ says Roger Glover, ‘was first hearing ‘21stCentury Schizoid Man’ – it was being played over the loudspeakers, Richie and I standing there, open-mouthed going “Wow! What a great song!”’
[continued in the comments]