Igginbottoms's Wrench: Angel Air liner notes
These are the liner notes added to the Angel Air 2000 reissue of Igginbottom's Wrench. Take note that, as implied in the text, the band had no involvement whatsoever in this reissue. Original band member Mick Skelly has disowned the story as told here as a "fairy tale". The notes should be read against other available sources on the topic, but information is rather scarce. The transcription is a little rough around the edges, as it was done from a YouTube video.
Getting To Grips With Igginbottom's Wrench
Unique. Unique. Unique. UNIQUE! NO Yes - Unique. Just roll the word around your tongue and tonsils (if still in situ) for a while. Enjoy it in its true sense. Undiluted. Pure. Freed of the normal day-to-day contamination from that great dissembler of language, hyperbole. It is after all a very special word for those very special people and things that are - er – unique.
Now consider Igginbottom, the Bradford band. Line-up? Two guitars, bass and drums. Two of the guys sing. It's a classic 1960's Mersey-style combo, then. Like The Merseybeats, 'The Searchers', 'The Swinging Blue Jeans' or ‘The Remo Four’ right? They'll be playing 1960's Beat R'n'B music, with a few Chuck Berry numbers thrown in, plus a couple of soppy, sloppy, soggy ballads to get the girls all gooey and ready for a wild snogging and writing session at the bus stop, whilst awaiting the 16 night service to Eccleshill, via Shipley.
In fact – no. Not the slightest bit correct. So put down that spotty-faced girl with the half-eaten bag of chips in her mac pocket, cease your fetid, futile gyrations and belay your lustful, lubricious, adolescent, sexual (but safely trousered) thrustings. Matters of greater import are afoot. What we have here is no 'three chord wonder' situation. What we do have here is a band that was, and is unique in the purest sense of the word unique. This is a band that took music a whole new way, gave it another dimension and direction, with a wholly new level of virtuoso musical ability musical sensibility, higher intelligence and forward vision. Arguably in this album and in their live work, Igginbottom defined a whole new genre of music. And they did this whilst still struggling to get into their very earliest twenties. There was no big-time record company and management team behind them, with big money and bigger plans and schemes and targets; no Svengali figure, and no big ideal other than to create and play the kind of music that they were happy with and would be proud to perform in the most exalted musical company. Of course, this is about the biggest idea that musicians can have, but achieving it, pulling it off and being acclaimed for it - well, that's quite another story - and a scenario that's littered with crushing defeat, odium, ridicule and ruination. Not for the faint-hearted, or those of meagre talent, neither of which descriptions could apply to Igginbottom.
Igginbottom was to be a relatively short-lived musical unit but one whose legacy resonates still throughout the world of music. You'll need to be wrenched away from your hi-fi once you’ve got this CD spinning at something rather more than the dear old 33 and a third rpm. And just try playing ‘air guitar' to this. It'll cause your head to spin like Linda Blair on a cocktail of potheen and black bombers (Don't try this at home - just imbibe the music, muchachos).
ENTER MJM PRODUCTIONS
Something else about Igginbottom was unique, too. Producing and managing them were three guys from one of the most successful pop bands of the 1960's - 'The Love Affair'. Bassist, Michael Jackson, Drummer Maurice ('Mo') Bacon and keyboardist, Morgan Fisher. All of 'The Love Affair' were in their teens at this time. There certainly seemed to be the whiff of a conspiracy of youth Surrounding this endeavour! Michael Jackson recalls the early days: "Prior to joining 'Love Affair'. I was at school and doing gigs in the evenings, starting when I was twelve years old. A long time friend, who also played in the same bands as me from time to time, was Steve Robinson, a first-rate guitarist, who was about my age, but already showed signs of an extraordinary talent for the guitar. Steve had a kind of mentor in another guitarist, Allan Holdsworth, who was slightly older and even more of a stand-out guitarist. We were all in little groups gigging around the Bradford area in Yorkshire, in the north of England". Many Yorkshiremen refer to it proudly as "God's own country” and out on the Yorkshire moors on a line summer's day, it's difficult to argue against that claim. But hip and 'cool' it ain't - even less so in the 1960's.
Meanwhile, the schooldays gigs carried on for Michael, from his twelfth to his sixteenth year, when he did a summer season at Butlin's Holiday Camp in Filey. There he met a band called 'Timebox' and became very pally with their guitarist, Ollie Halsall - a tremendous musician, now no longer with us and greatly missed-along with "Timebox” vocalist and good guy, Mike Patto, also gone, but never forgotten. Ollie invited Michael down to London “to stay at our pad anytime you like.”
So it was that Michael turned up soon after at the given address with another musician friend, only to find that the Timebox' pad was actually the abode of some girls who were already feeding and housing Mike Ollie and Co, and were not at all pleased to find two hungry young lads from 'Oop North' being foisted upon them. It wasn't a long stay! But, whilst there, Michael had spotted an advertisement in the Melody Maker'. A London-based band was looking for a bassist. He auditioned. Got the job. The band was called the 'Soul Survivors' and its other members were Steve Ellis: Vocals, Morgan Fisher: Keyboards Michael George: Guitar and Maurice Bacon: Drums (NB-Maurice assures that it wasn't George Michael on guitar). The band, which was a 'soul and pop outfit, a good commercial strategy in those days gigged for about nine months. No recordings were made. Maurice was 14 years old, Morgan and Steve Ellis were old-timers' at the pitiably advanced age of 15.
Many of you readers will have guessed the next move correct: the "Soul Survivors became the Love Affair, a fine, enormously popular but seriously falsely vilified band of precocious talents, whose story must be told at another time in another CD booklet.
Michael Jackson continues the Iggistory. "Despite having joined a London band which kept me down south most of the time, I stayed in touch with Steve Robinson and Allan Holdsworth and they kept me up to date with their bands and gigs and so on. This came in very useful when, during the Love Affair days I broke some of my teeth and had to go into hospital for treatment, just ahead of a major tour. I rang Steve and asked him to stand in for me whilst my dental problems were sorted out. Naturally, he did a great job and impressed the other guys in the group."
Michael went back up to Yorkshire during 1968 to visit his family and during his stay was invited by Steve to see our new band'. "I thought they were amazing, and suggested the name Igginbottom to them. Somehow it just 'stuck, and Igginbottom they were. The music they were playing was like nothing I had ever heard before, and the standard of their musicianship was incredibly high. Allan told me that one of his earliest influences was Tony Hicks, guitarist with Manchester's major quality pop harmony group, The Hollies. He admired the fast runs that Hicks injected into his guitar playing. With The Hollies, Tony Hicks played a deft mix of chunky rhythm and lead parts since there was no audible second guitarist most of the time in their live work, and original bassist, Eric Haydock, used a six-stringed Fender bass, which lacked any real low-end, giving the group a rather bottom-light sound, helping the three part vocal harmony work to come through clearly, and left space for one of the great drummers of 1960's pop, Bobby Eliott, to shine. Asked to name a likely early influence for Allan Holdsworth, The Hollies' Tony Hicks wouldn't have been an obvious choice but there was always musical intelligence and thought in his guitar work, and Tony is still impressing audiences and music critics alike with his guitar skills and very successfully too. More power to his plectrum, say I.
Allan Holdsworth's father was a jazz pianist, but the young Allan's first major musical ambition was to be a jazz saxophonist. Somehow, he ended up with the guitar. "The major influence on Alan's guitar style, which he filtered through to Steve was adapting his solo playing to match with the way that saxophone players soloed", recalls Michael Jackson, particularly in the case of John Coltrane, his all time favourite.
Michael travelled back to London, full of admiration for the music that he'd heard his friends playing and determined to try to help them get things moving with their
musical ambitions. With this in mind, he asked Morgan and Maurice to accompany him on a trip to the great Up North to witness Igginbottom in person. Needless to say, M&M were smitten and the trio decided to become the band's managers, and work towards getting them a record deal.
"I contacted Ronnie Scott, one of Britain's greatest jazz saxophonists who also ran his own jazz club," says Michael."I tried hard to sell the idea of this band with the beat group line-up that played complex jazz with no piano, no sax, no trumpet. After a considerable amount of badgering, he came up with idea that he could have a special “Guitar Festival" night at the club, and feature world-renowned players like John Williams, the classical guitar player who studied with Segovia and recorded with Julian Bream, and Barney Kessel, the great American jazz guitarist who played with Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson and Artie Shaw, not to mention his own trio with Shelley Manne (drums) and Ray Brown (bass) plus sessions for The Beach Boys and Phil Spector amongst many others.
And so it come to pass that Igginbottom’s first London gig was at the super-prestigious Ronnie Scott's Club in Soho, with Williams and Kessel, but with the Iggies playing the FINAL set, which gave the impression, at least, of their being the bill topping act. Just to have an unknown four piece band, with two electric guitars, electric bass and drums at a seriously serious London jazz venue was risking quite enough in itself, but to CLOSE THE SHOW...
So, what happened? Bamey Kessel and John Williams were, as one would expect, utterly top class and the audience just ate them up Now it was time for Igginbottom to go on, and they were going to perform their set exactly as the songs would run on their album - they had already mapped out and rehearsed how the album would be it was to begin with them playing a 'send-up’: Allan and Steve were renowned for their take-offs of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, et al and the first song was a merciless spoof of the kind of music that the band could not bear. When it ended, they would have a dearly audible discussion about the awful song they'd just performed, vowing that they would find an improved style of music to play and at this point would break into the real music of the band.
As the players took to the stage many of the audience were still at the bar and taking little notice, but a crowd started to gather when sounds of drums, bass, guitars and voices began to be heard from the stage area. However, when these players were seen to be scruffily-dressed, long-haired young fellows, and a four-piece “rock
group” to boot, people lost interest and wandered away from the stage and a deathly hush fell. This was not the kind of thing that dyed in the wool jazz quitar fanatics had come to see. Many backs were fumed against them when the Iggies began their set. And the first number did not help things, either, nor the staged band discussion that followed it.
But then the real music of the band began and, one by one, then two-by-two, then in increasing numbers, and in increasing enthusiasm, the crowd crowded around the bandstand and learned to admire and respect these four unknown scruffs from the north of England. As the final strains of the final song died away, another deathly hush descended to be followed by a massive standing ovation that all but removed the paint and wallpaper from the walls of the club. To say the show was a triumph is to diminish the achievement of Dave Freeman, Mick Skelly. Steve Robinson and Allan Holdsworth that evening. It has to have been the gig of a lifetime. Of a lifetime of lifetimes. And no-one ever deserved it more than they did, with their young management and production team looking-on proudly
Following this major breakthrough gig, the group started playing selected venues and promoting their album Igginbottom's Wrench. Allan Holdsworth was commissioned to write music for a new promotion being launched by British Airways. However, just when things were looking 'all systems go', the system began to malfunction. The MJM trio was beginning to realise that the management game was a somewhat trickier than it had first appeared to be, and maybe it wasn't such a good idea to have working musicians managing other working musicians. The group seemed to drift to a halt, then quietly disbanded.
None of the MJM team currently has any idea of the whereabouts of Steve Robinson (Michael last heard that he was playing on a cruise liner), Mike Skelly, or Dave Freeman. Please get in touch via Angel Air, fellas.
Allan Holdsworth, meanwhile, has gone on to be a major force as a guitarist who is forever pushing musical envelopes further and further. He's lucky there isn't a Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Envelopes I guess. Over the past three decades, Allan has worked with just about everybody who is somebody in the music business including, in no particular order, Stanley Clarke, Ian Carr's Nucleus, Gong. Herbie Hancock, Krokus, Level 42, Soft Machine, Tony Williams, Jon Hiseman and the word is that of late, his solo work has showed fresh inspiration and brilliance, borne of his endless quest for new frontiers to breach and new heights to reach. He's been known to play violin and became a pioneering SynthAxe wielder in the 1980's. And, although he has been based in the USA for some years, now, by Gad, he's still British to the bone.
On the penultimate page of the booklet we give some web addresses that should provide a more detailed insight into Allan Holdsworth's incredible career since lgginbottom.
Dale Griffin Longville in the Dale Shropshire, England 12th March, 2000
IGGINBOTTOM: An appreciation by Morgan Fisher
I am sure that all music lovers have a few moments in their lives when they discover a new artist who completely overwhelms them and makes life worth living on that particular day. Discovering Igginbottom was like that for me. It was one of those classic northern English grey days I had jumped on a train with Mick and Maurice, to go up to Bradford and see a new band that Mick knew, and decide if they were worth producing. Arriving at a scruffy little studio, little did I suspect that once these four charming, but ordinary-looking chaps started playing, I would be instantly transported to other words, where the sun always shone and life was a surrealist poem.
I gazed agape as waves of complex Debussy-ish chords washed over me. My eyes grew wider as I watched the incredible interplay between Alan's and Steve's guitars, often sounding like one guitar playing a massively complex chord on 12 strings. And it wasn't as if Allan couldn't be massively complex by himself. If he couldn't stretch his left hand wide enough to execute one of his unique chords, no problem, use the right hand as well to hold down one or more strings, then strum the chord with his little finger -all done in a flash during a fast-moving series of chord changes. Then there were those wonderful, long fluid solos from both Allan and Steve, brilliantly displaying their love for Coltrane. All of this supported with rare grace and sensitivity by Dave's drums and Mick's bass, delicate brushes and mallets and slides and tremolos, reminding me of the mid-1950's Chico Hamilton Quintet
And then there were the vocals. I don’t know if Allan has ever sung since recording this album - and if he hasn't it's a crying shame. His velvety smooth, yet husky tones remind me of Chet Baker, but more modern, less sentimental. Allan may cringe if he reads this, but I think I am one of many who would be very happy to hear him sing again. Songs! Allan Holdsworth, now one of the leading fusion guitarists in the world, and an ace improviser, used to write songs with beautiful, emotional melodies and moving, poetic lyrics!
I can't speak for my fellow producers, Mick and Maurice, but as far as I was concerned, the music on this album was a 'fait accompli' before we even got into the studio. These musicians were light years ahead of the rest of us - all I felt we could do was to make sure that everything was well recorded and see to it that the musicians relaxed and enjoyed themselves. It was a pleasure and a privilege being in the studio with them, and I hope we did our job as well as they did theirs. Allan went on to stardom and played with the jazz greats (I loved his work on Tony Williams Lifetime's "Believe It"), but for me, this album from over thirty years ago has a special purity and sincerity which will never grow old, and which can touch many listeners who may never normally listen to jazz or fusion. I am delighted that it is available again and about time too!
Morgan Fisher Tokyo, Japan 18th February 2000
Morgan Fisher and Maurice Bacon are still very much in the music business - Morgan has a Year Two Thousand follow up to his 1980's classic Miniatures album, the new version featuring 60 artists performing 60 songs lasting no longer than 60 seconds each. All miniature masterpieces. Due in March, 2000 from Cherry Red Records. Maurice Bacon is kept busy with his Bacon Empire Publishing, Strike Back Records and Strike Back Management companies. Michael Jackson is a prominent businessman in Yorkshire. And all three of them have something musical up their sleeves.
Regarding the recording of the Igginbottom Album
None of the 'MUM trio recall a great deal about the recording of the album, which was completed inside a 24hr period in a small studio in the West End of London. Just about everything was a first take, Maurice Bacon recalls. The only major problem encountered was the minimal volume employed by the group, meaning the signal-to-noise ratio of their amplifiers heavily favoured the noise aspect. Be assured that Nick Watson will have used every tool at his disposal to attenuate the amp noise on the original tape, without compromising the overall sound of the album.
Regarding the name Igginbottom
Of course, the proper spelling is Higginbottom, but in Yorkshire, as in many areas of Great Britain, it is common, in everyday speech, to ignore the aitch, thus 'lgginbottom, 'Argreaves, 'Ancock Ereford, 'Ampstead 'Eath and 'Ap 'Azard. This has given me a little problem in the text. So not wishing to lard the pages with apostrophes and inverted commas Igginbottom always appears as just that, with no other markings. It's called Griffin's Law of Grammar and Punctuation. So sue me!
For more detailed information on Allan Holdsworth's post-loginbottom career, please try the following websites
"IGGINBOTTOM - IGGINBOTTOM'S WRENCH" (1969 Review Disc & Music Echo) Much is being said about this group - combining jazz and pop and all that. And with sleeve notes by Ronnie Scott. The LP is by any standards quite exceptional. They do fuse jazz and pop, gently, non-violently and carefully. One can admire the group for what they are doing and enjoy what they do. It's mainly late-night sounds, done with confidence and care. Progressive fans are urged to try this, although tracks like "California Dreaming" and "Blind Girl will need some careful listening to. LG.