Tuesday, March 30, 2021


No, don't panic, Superlungs hasn't passed, this is the tale around how he coulda/mighta/shoulda "been" Robert Plant, were it not for bad luck, being unwilling to let down an earlier booking and having impeccable taste in suggesting an alternative. Lesser mortals might have thrown in the towel as the years of critical fame and public indifference combined to leave him an also ran, a bit player on the sidelines and in smaller venues. Embittered? It seems not, presumably making some sufficient livelihood from the circuit of pubs and clubs.

So what was the story and how does it stack up. Reid, born in Huntingdon, UK, just four years after the second world war ended, a world where rationing was still part of the wartime legacy. From his first band, the Redbirds, he was spotted by Peter Jay, a local bandleader, and enlisted, age 15, upon leaving school, with Peter Jay's Jaywalkers. A name lost in the mists of time, but they actually snarfed a Rolling Stones support slot in that band's 1966 tour of the UK. The high spot of that tour was a prestigious gig at the Royal Albert Hall. Falling into conversation with Graham Nash, as you do, then of the Hollies, it was recommended the group should seek a recording contract. The Hand Don't Fit the Glove was not much of a hit, and was a fairly standard soul-inflected pop single, but shows some room for growth, especially as he begins to let rip in some of the verses.

The Hand Don't Fit the Glove/Peter Jay & the Jaywalkers

They disbanded and Reid then fell into the hands of pop impresario Mickie Most, famous for nurturing the Animals and Herman's Hermits, as well as, later, Suzi Quatro and Hot Chocolate. He was in partnership, at that time, with the later to be notorious Peter Grant. The first blast on his solo career was the oddly entitle solo album, Bang Bang, You're Terry Reid. (I could get that if either Reid or Most had hailed from Glasgow, but any rhyming argot is lost in the home counties english they both spoke.) A US tour as support with Cream and a slightly more successful single, Better By Far, and it looked as if he was on a roll.

Better By Far

Peter Grant, no longer in cahoots with Most, was by now the manager of the New Yardbirds, a band being set up by ex-Yardbird and session wunderkind Jimmy Page, along with equivalently feted bassist John Paul Jones. Page had wondered as to the suitability of Reid as their singer, using Grant to liase with him. Not many people were able to avoid the coercive "charm" of Grant, an ex-wrestler who had little charm and lots of coercion, but Reid somehow managed, citing his loyalty to the gigs he had already signed up for. OK, he offered that a financial settlement that could have been made to Cream and the Stones, but that never materialised and off he went on tour. Before leaving he also dropped the name of someone else that Page and Grant might consider, a young lad he had been impressed by, whose band, Band of Joy, had supported Reid at a Birmingham gig. That young man was Robert Plant, with he and the drummer, soon both ensconced in Page's band, now newly entitled Led Zeppelin. And you know the rest.

Reid, meanwhile, continued to plug away as a well respected support act, notching up tours with Fleetwood Mac mark one, Jethro Tull and Jimi Hendrix. With Most trying to pull him into a more commercial and ballad led direction, he rebelled, with the inevitable legal implications of then falling out with a manager. Unable to cut much ice at home, he had to rely on the effervescent US market and touring arena to keep him afloat, as he flitted from label to label, manager to manager, turning up a perennial on numerous filmed happenings of the time, from the first Isle of Wight festival, the Atlanta II festival and the first Glastonbury "Fayre". Even his 1971 signing by Atlantic mogul, Ahmet Ertegun failed to hit pay dirt, and he seemed destined to remain a critics favourite rather than a superstar. Not that he wasn't producing perfectly good music, as the following few, in no contemporaneous or particular order, demonstrate, just the favourites that come to mind.

To Be Treated Rite

Seed of Memory


Rogue Wave

These are all his own songs, but bear in mind, his gift is as much in interpretation, and there being many a cover version across his output: so, take your pick, do you want Left Banke, the Everleys, or maybe some of this?

Stay With Me, Baby

Since the turn of the century, he has visited the UK more frequently, for a while taking up yearly residencies at Ronnie Scott's club in London, one of few non-jazz artistes getting that opportunity, as well as prestige gigs at festivals, where he became quite a draw, a heritage artist to tick off a list. Sometimes he has performed with bands, but, as often as not, he has appeared in smaller group settings, in a duo or trio. The re-release of his early recordings also helped keep him in ear. I was lucky enough to catch him, five or so years back, as part of a duo, the only accompaniment to his voice and his guitar being B.J. Cole on pedal steel. It was good that night to see how just how well he and his "sponsor" remain on good terms, local black country boy Robert Plant turning out to show lively support from the smallish audience. Plant says of him that he remains "the outstanding voice of his generation." It's true, I was mainly there for Cole, but left a far greater fan of Reid than I had been.

So, what's he up to now? Clearly no shows at the moment, but don't write him off. And, whatever you do don't ask him that 'what if' question...... 

As a closer, here he is on British TV in 2018.

To Be Treated Rite

And a TV interview from November, barely five months ago.

P.S. An afterthought has me minded of this song, which managed an extraordinary and gradual metamorphosis. A song he wrote, apparently at the age of 7, he first put it out as Without Expression, old chum Graham Nash then taking it to the Hollies, as Man of No Expression, and then again, to Crosby, Stills & Nash, as Horse Through a Rainstorm. (It's in the lyric!) Finally, REO Speedwagon gave it a further and fourth leash of life, entitled once more as Without Expression. Given the CSN version had been pencilled in as the opening track of CSN(&Y)s Deja Vu, ahead of being trumped by Carry On, is this another example of Reid's famed luck showing through?

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