Atomic Rooster was an English progressive rock band, originally composed of former members of the The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Throughout their history, keyboardist Vincent Crane was the only constant member, and wrote the majority of their material. Their history is defined by two periods: the early-mid-1970s and the early 1980s. The band went through radical style changes, however they are best-known for the hard, progressive rock sound of their hit singles, "Tomorrow Night" (UK No. 11) and "The Devil's Answer" (UK No. 4), both in 1971.
Original period (1969–1975)
In summer 1969, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown had to cease touring in the middle of their second U.S. tour because of keyboardist Vincent Crane's mental illness. When he recovered, he and drummer Carl Palmer took the step to leave Arthur Brown and return to England, the return date being Friday, 13 June 1969, which was the year of the rooster in the Chinese calendar, and arranged a meeting with Brian Jones to discuss a collaboration. After Jones's death, they adopted the name Atomic Rooster (with influence from the US band Rhinoceros), and soon recruited Nick Graham on bass and vocals. They followed with what had emerged as The Crazy World of Arthur Brown formula of vocals, organ, bass, and drums.
They soon undertook live dates around London; at their first headlining gig, the opening act was Deep Purple on Friday, August 29, 1969 at London Lyceum. They eventually struck a deal with B & C Records and began recording their debut album in December 1969. Their first LP, Atomic Roooster, was released in February 1970, along with a single, "Friday the 13th". By March, Crane felt it was best that they add a guitarist, and recruited John Du Cann from acid-progressive rock band Andromeda. However, just as Du Cann joined, bassist-vocalist Graham left. Du Cann (who played guitar and sang for Andromeda) took over vocal duties, whilst Crane overdubbed the bass lines on his Hammond organ with a combination of left hand and foot pedals. Atomic Rooster resumed gigging until the end of June 1970, when Carl Palmer announced his departure to Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Ric Parnell filled the drum spot until August, when the young Paul Hammond was recruited from Farm to the drum spot. They then recorded their second album, Death Walks Behind You, released in September 1970. Originally it was not commercially successful, as with the first album, but by February 1971, the single "Tomorrow Night" reached No. 11 in the UK Singles Chart, with the album reaching No. 12 in the UK Albums Chart. Atomic Rooster made an appearance on the Top of the Pops, and toured to support the album.
In June 1971, just before they began configuring their line-up once again, the single "Devils Answer" hit No. 4 in the UK. Atomic Rooster saw considerable popularity, and they began recording In Hearing of Atomic Rooster (UK No. 18). Crane felt the band needed a singer who could "project" to an audience, and asked Leaf Hound vocalist Pete French to audition for the band. Not long after French came into the studio, Crane promptly sacked Du Cann, and Paul Hammond followed him to form Bullet, later re-named Hard Stuff. French recorded all the vocals on the album (save for "Black Snake", sung by Crane), and the album was released in August 1971.
The latest Atomic Rooster line-up featuring Pete French on vocals, Steve Bolton on guitar, Ric Parnell on drums, and Crane on keyboards toured Italy, right across America and Canada. This line-up ended their international tour to appear at a benefit gig in September 1971 at the Oval cricket ground, appearing in front of some 65,000 people, supporting The Faces and The Who. After this concert, French moved on to sign with Atlantic records and joined the American rock band Cactus. In February 1972, Crane recruited vocalist Chris Farlowe, at that time with Colosseum, to take the place of French. They went on tour and recorded their first album together in spring 1972. They released the album Made in England along with the single "Stand by Me", on Dawn Records. They were more into soul at this point, and the progressive and heavy rock leanings from the other releases had receded. The single did not chart and the album just barely caught any attention, but touring followed through.
Guitarist Steve Bolton left at the end of 1972, and was replaced by John Goodsall, appearing under the name Johnny Mandala. They released the album Nice 'n' Greasy in 1973 with the single "Save Me", and a re-working of "Friday the 13th". This time, it was in a complete funk style. After nearly two years without any hits, Dawn Records dropped the group and Atomic Rooster began to split. After a tour, Farlowe, Mandala and Parnell left. The single "Tell Your Story, Sing Your Song" was released in March 1974 as "Vincent Crane's Atomic Rooster" on Decca. All subsequent gigs were played by Crane along with members of the blues band Sam Apple Pie. A final concert was played in February 1975, a benefit gig for the RSPCA. Afterwards, Crane disbanded Atomic Rooster.
During hiatus (1975-1979)
Vincent Crane put together the music for a number of plays and musicals in England between 1976 and 1977, including two of Peter Green's radio broadcasts. In 1978, Crane teamed up with Arthur Brown once again, and in 1979 they released the album Faster Than the Speed of Light. Crane and Brown would also perform a rendition of "Green Door", dressed in top hat and tails.
John Du Cann dropped the "Du" from his name when he, Paul Hammond and John Gustafson released two albums as Hard Stuff between 1972 and 1973. Hard Stuff ended when Hammond suffered injuries in a car accident. Afterwards, Cann filled in the guitar spot in Thin Lizzy for a tour in Germany during 1974, before going off the road to write music for ads and jingles in England. In 1977, he recorded a solo album (The World's Not Big Enough) with members of Status Quo and Gillan, before learning his record company was not going to release it. In 1979, he had a minor hit with his rendition of "Don't Be a Dummy", used in a Lee Cooper Jeans ad. Also in 1977 Paul Hammond played drums with T.H.E., a three piece featuring Pete Newnham (Cockney Rebel/Window) on guitar and vocals, and Mike Marchant (Third Ear Band) on bass and vocals. A single called "Rudi" was released that year on B&C Records under the name Pete Newnham, which has become a collectors item. That song and two unreleased tracks, "Johnny the Snark and "Play with Fire" now appear on Bored Teenagers No. 5 from Detour Records.
Reformation period (1980-1983)
During 1980, Crane contacted Cann and after some discussion, got an Atomic Rooster reformation under way, with Cann reverting to his full surname again, as per the earlier incarnation of the band. They recruited session drummer Preston Heyman and recorded an album, along with one 7/12" single, on EMI Records. The 1980 album, Atomic Rooster, was followed by a tour, however in October Heyman left and Paul Hammond was once again in the drum seat after Ginger Baker filled in for two weeks. They continued touring and released two singles in 1981 and 1982. However, before their performance at the Reading Festival, Du Cann became absent without official leave, as evidenced by a series of telegrams to Cann from Vincent Crane, which were auctioned on eBay in January 2012, after they had been purchased from John's estate. Apparently the band (i.e. Crane and Hammond) used Mick Hawkesworth (ex-Andromeda) as a stand-in. John McCoy later stepped in on bass.
With Du Cann gone, Crane set about a new form of Atomic Rooster. Paul Hammond stayed on and played drums for the following album Headline News (1983), recorded in late 1982. Several guitarists played on the album, including David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Bernie Torme of Gillan and John Mizarolli. Crane added vocals to the album along with his wife on backing vocals. A tour of Germany and Italy included Bernie Torme on guitar. Mizarolli played guitar for several U.K. dates. Headline News was released in June 1983, and featured a completely different sound from anything they had ever done, including electronics and synthesizers. The album was completely written by Vincent Crane, leading some to perceive it as a Crane solo album.
Crane disbanded Atomic Rooster once again at the end of 1983. In 1984, he went on to the project Katmandu with Peter Green, Ray Dorset and Jeff Whittaker, and they recorded the album A Case for the Blues. In 1985, Crane joined Dexys Midnight Runners, playing piano for their album Don't Stand Me Down and two singles, one becoming the theme song for the TV series Brush Strokes.
Dexys Midnight Runners disbanded in 1987 and Crane intended to reform Atomic Rooster with Du Cann once again. A German tour was planned for 1989. However, Crane's mental illness intervened, and he died when he overdosed on painkillers on 14 February 1989. Paul Hammond died in 1992. All members of the band that recorded Death Walks Behind You (1970) have subsequently died. Du Cann (d. September 21, 2011) struck a deal with Angel Air Records and oversaw the release and re-release of much of his and Atomic Rooster's material, including live recordings, compilations, compilations of unreleased material and album reissues with extra material.
Discography (with UK release dates)
- BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert 1972 (1993)
- Devil's Answer 1970-81 BBC Radio sessions (1998)
- Live and Raw 70/71 (2000)
- Live in Germany 1983 (2000)
- Live at the Marquee 1980 (2002)
- Assortment (1974)
- Home to Roost (1977)
- The Devil Hits Back (1989)
- Space Cowboy (1991)
- The Best of Atomic Rooster Volumes 1 & 2 (1992)
- In Satan's Name: The Definitive Collection (1997)
- The First 10 Explosive Years (1999)
- Rarities (2000)
- The First 10 Explosive Years Volume 2 (2001)
- Heavy Soul (2001)
- Homework (2008)
- Close Your Eyes: A Collection 1965-1986 (2008; released under the name Vincent Crane)
- Anthology 1969-81 (2009)
- Resurrection (2001) - Akarma unlicensed CD reissues of first three albums, with 24-page illustrated booklet
- Devil's Answer: The Singles Collection (2006) - reissue of first six UK singles on 7" or individual CDs
- "Friday the 13th" / "Banstead" - B&C CB121 (February 1970)
- "Tomorrow Night" / "Play the Game" - B&C CB131 (January 1971) - UK No. 11
- "Devil's Answer" / "The Rock" - B&C CB157 (June 1971) - UK No. 4
- "Stand by Me" / "Never to Lose" - Dawn DNS1027 (1972)
- "Save Me" / "Close Your Eyes" - Dawn DNS1029 (November 1972) - A-side is rerecorded, retitled "Friday the 13th"
- "Can't Find a Reason" / "Moods" (credited to 'Farlow [sic.]/Crane') Dawn DNS1034 (1973)
- "Tell Your Story (Sing Your Song)" / "O.D." (credited to 'Vincent Crane's Atomic Rooster') - Decca FR13503 (March 1974)
- "Do You Know Who's Looking for You?" / "Throw Your Life Away" (plus 12" with extended A-side) - EMI EMI5084 / 12EMI5084 (June 1980)
- "Play It Again" / "Start to Live" aka "Rebel with a Clause" (plus 12" with "Devil's Answer" live in Milan 1981) - Polydor POSP334 / POSPX334 (September 1981)
- "End of the Day" / "Living Underground" aka "Night Living" (plus 12" with "Tomorrow Night" live studio rerecording 1981) - Polydor POSP408 / POSPX408 (February 1982)
- "Land of Freedom" / "Carnival" (plus 12" with extended A-side) - Towerbell Records TOW37 / 12TOW37 (May 1983)
- Masters from the Vaults (2003)
- Progressive rock
- Roger Dean - features two album cover images
- Richard Wahnfried - Crane recorded one album with this project
- Atomic Rooster at Angelfire "Where are they now?"
- Ginger Baker website
- Atomic Rooster at Dawn Records
- Atomic Rooster discography at Discogs
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