Rolled Gold, Mighty Baby & The Solo years
Those of you reading these pages, will be aware of the god-like status of these cult heroes. As you know, The Action were a North London based Tamla influenced mod band, who made their reputation with a residency at the Marquee, were produced by George Martin at Abbey Road Studios, recorded possibly the best Motown cover of all time (The Marvelletes 'I'll Keep Holding On'). The band never quite had the hit single their talent & reputation deserved at a time of wall to wall quality in the music industry.
I have no real mission in this article to re-hash the above era. In this issue, I wish to bring your attention to the album demoed, that was never released in the bands' lifetime, namely 'Rolled Gold'. The tapes were rescued from a series of demo’s recorded summer 1967-Spring 1968 as part of a projected album. The band were moving away from their original soul roots, as their final Parlophone single 'Shadows & Reflections' (summer 1967) hinted at a new direction. Harmonies from West Coast US bands such as The Association & Buffallo Springfield were now part of the act, rather than the floor filling soul of yore , however, the band had at last really found their feet as songwriters.
Listening to the demos cut, it is obvious the band were now capable of matching the creativity of , The Zombies, Traffic, Byrds &, indeed The Beatles. The work completed seems as if the demos were basic live recordings with few studio embellishments. No matter, the feel is there, there is no feeling that this is an unfinished work, this is a psychedelic classic artefact in its own right .
Songs such as 'In My Dreams', 'Come Around', & 'Things You Cannot See' show beautiful melodies, harmonies & song development. Tracks such as 'Icarus' & 'Brain' capture the adventurous musical spirit of the era. The band jam around the songs structure; they are in inspired form. Another stand-out is 'Strange Rooms' a cracking slice of mod-pop - more than a match for their contemporaries The Who & The Creation.
Why then, was the album not made? Well, in an era when creativity was at a peak & recording contracts were at a premium, it was deemed The Action had had their day as a potentially successful singles band.
Dispirited by this, singer Reg King left, disillusioned with the unfulfilled promise. However, the others carried on, the new psychedelia giving birth to the prog era. in the same way, The Action gave way to their new era, becoming Mighty Baby.
This change in musical direction was matched by a change in the industry, Creative bands were encouraged to make albums & go on the college & festival circuit, thus giving the band a new lease of life. Members recruited in the latter days of The Action - wizard guitarist Martin Stone & keyboardist/flautist Ian Whiteman stepped up to the plate; vocally the band took on a new texture, & lengthy instrumental improvisation was the spirit of the day. The bands years of gigging, their melodic sense & improvisational sense made them front runners, in this, the era of stoned bands playing to stoned audiences.
The band thrived in this new climate. Mighty Baby released two fine albums, 'Mighty Baby'& 'A Jug of Love', gigged incessantly, the 1970 Isle of Wight festival, & supporting old mates The Stones in London in their 1969 Christmas shows at The Lyceum were highlights of these years.
Some readers may also remember in 1985, a set of Mighty Baby demos were released under the name of The Action from summer 1968. Although the aim of this release was to mis-lead the mod revival audience into purchasing what was basically a prog mini album, these tracks lead that audience to check out the band in later years. I, for one, are glad they did.
As for Reg King, he made a fine solo LP in 1970, entitled simply 'Reg King'. This featured all his former band mates & is really a hybrid of The Action Mk1 & Mighty Baby. A gospel & soul flavour is mixed with tracks based around stoned jams. Inconsistent as the album is, readers are requested to check out, as this is a fine piece of work .
The beauty of the Action is, long after their initial interest to the mod audience, they remained such interesting geezers. Later in the 70s, after Mighty Baby fell apart, Guitarist Alan 'Bam' King resurfaced in blue eyed soul influenced act Ace, writing their much covered hit 'How Long'. Splendid guitarist Martin Stone resurfaced in pub-rock pioneers Chilli-Willi before becoming a world-wide respected tracer & dealer of antiquarian books. the course of 1970 several members of the band became Muslims (adherents of the Sufiorder), and their subsequent lifestyles reflected the spiritual journey.
Of course, the lure of reformation hung over The Action became reality. In 1998, reunion shows were played, & again in 2000. Although in hindsight, the reunions were not the greatest success, it was great for a fascinating story to turn full circle.
The recent deaths of Reg King & bassist Mike Evans in 2010 were met with a genuine sadness. Both men were extremely popular; not just for their undoubted talent, but with the time they made for anybody wishing to quiz them (such as this author) on their fascinating past, for the thousandth time.
As Paul Weller said, on the release of The Ultimate Action compilation in 1980; “A piece of The Action? Yes Please!!