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Sunday, September 07, 2008

JOHN'S CHILDREN : Desdemona (1967)

R.I.P. Chris Townson (1947 - 2008)
Chris Townson was the drummer for Marc Bolan's (T.Rex) first band, John's Children. He later did stints in glam-rock/proto-punk groups Jook, Jet, and Radio Stars (in that order). He died on Feb. 10 2008 from cancer.

Here's a snippet of the Times Online obit:
Drummer, artist, illustrator and social worker Chris Townson’s musical career began in the 1960s with so-called “sonic terrorists” John’s Children, who also featured a nascent Marc Bolan on guitar. Townson’s subsequent career included replacing Keith Moon on a Who tour, jamming with Jimi Hendrix, becoming a sought- after illustrator and, later in life, a highly thought-of and much-loved social worker.
“A ghastly racket” was how Townson later referred to John’s Children, but they made their mark thanks to their outrageous stage performances which involved chains, fake blood and feathers. Their provocative recordings — their single Desdemona was banned in 1967 by the BBC for its risqué lyric — and their ambiguous image, often being photographed naked with their fundamental parts covered by garlands of flowers, also contributed to the band’s status. Their manager at that time, Simon Napier-Bell, honing his skills for his later protégés Wham and George Michael, procured them a support slot on The Who’s 1967 German tour, but they were ejected mid-tour for being “too loud and violent”, in Townshend’s words (presumably he was being ironic). He nonetheless requested Townson as a replacement for Keith Moon on a UK tour later that year when Moon proved “unavailable”. Signed to Who manager Kit Lambert’s label Track Records, Townson had inevitable encounters with label-mate Jimi Hendrix, with whom he performed at the notorious London rock hangout the Speakeasy.
Following the departure of Marc Bolan to calmer pastures in 1968, John’s Children called it a day. Townson’s aggressive drumming led him to join faux-skinhead band Jook in 1972; they were demobilised in 1974 when half of them were seconded to oddball Californian teen-combo Sparks. Townson joined forces with Martin Gordon in the glam super-group Jet, which featured a variety of rock luminaries of the day.
He returned to drumming for pleasure in the 1990s — a reformed John’s Children performed in the US and Europe and Townson would make an annual trip to Berlin to perform on former bandmate Gordon’s albums.

This track was the A-side of Marc Bolan's only single with the group. You can hear his warbly vocals quite clearly. This is also a good showcase of Townson's creative drumming, instilling dynamics in an otherwise simply-arranged song. This was an underground psychedelic classic of the times. Bolan left the group within months to start Tyrannosaurus Rex...

Here's the wiki blurb:
"Desdemona" is a song by the British cult band John's Children. It was released in 1967 and failed to chart in Britain, possibly due to the fact it was banned by the BBC for a "controversial" lyric (lift up your skirt and fly). However, the song was a minor hit in Europe. The song was composed by Marc Bolan, at the time a member of John's Children, and is considered to be one of the greatest songs the group recorded, or indeed, one of the greatest early Bolan songs.

Song: "Desdemona"

Single A-side (Track records) May 1967

Andy Ellison : vocals
John Hewlett : bass
Marc Bolan : guitar, vocals
Chris Townson : drums
Get it here : Desdemona

1 comment:

Dana said...

Cool track.

"Ghastly racket" - good description.

Wow, they found those lyrics offensive?? My, how times have changed.