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Monday, May 29, 2017

1: 'Igginbottom (1969)

     As the 60's drew to a close, Allan found himself "mentoring" and playing in a local Bradford band with guitarist Steve Robinson. At this point in his harmonic explorations, Allan had already created his own chordal language, separate from that taught in traditional guitar instruction books. By "following his own nose", Allan had come across new voicings for old chords, and created new chords by layering two simpler chords on top of each other. These "polychords" were explored with the addition of Steve's 6-string in rehearsals with bassist Mick Skelly and drummer Dave Freeman. Allan also introduced to Steve the "sheets of sound" soloing style he had first heard on Coltrane's records.
     "There were 2 guitar players in the band, Steve Robinson and myself, and what we used to try to do (which was a very good idea, it’s just that we weren’t very good at it…) was that we played, like, polychords. I’d play 4 notes, and he would play 4 different notes, and every chord was usually like an 8-note chord, which was unusual for the guitar, and we’d work on it. Some of the ideas were pretty good, it’s just that we couldn’t play..."  (48)
     Through Steve's friendship with Mick Jackson (vocalist/bassist from the band "The Love Affair"), the band (now 3 months old, and dubbed 'Igginbottom at Jackson's suggestion) was featured at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in Soho London during a "guitar festival" (with classical guitarist John Williams and jazz guitarist Barney Kessel also on the bill).
     “I gazed agape as waves of complex, Debussy-ish chords washed over me. My eyes grew wider as I watched the incredible interplay between Allan’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 and 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 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-1950s Chico Hamilton Quartet."
- Morgan Fisher of "The Love Affair" ("Igginbottom's Wrench" liner notes)

     After 'Igginbottom's successful live debut in London, an album was recorded and released on Deram Records (a sub-label of Decca). Unfortunately the studio process was a bit rocky at times:
     "I had an AC30 (Vox)* and a Gibson SG, and I used to like to turn up the amp until it was right at that point where it would get real throaty and fat, but without a ton of distortion. So we started playing, and the engineer came in shaking his head saying, 'No, no, no. This is all wrong. You turn the amp down, and we turn it up in the control room.' And I'm screaming, 'No, you don't understand. I want you to record this sound.' This would go on for hours, and it would drive me crazy. I couldn't figure out why I liked my sound at gigs, but hated it every time it was recorded." (61)

*Michael (Mick) Skelly reports that he only recalls seeing Allan with a Marshall amp at this time.  He also adds that the record was recorded in one night, live to tape, with the vocals added the following night.

"'Igginbottom's Wrench" Analysis:
In the breakdown below Allan is in the left guitar channel and Steve Robinson is in the right.
Trk Title Dur Song Breakdown
1 The Castle 2:55 (Written by Allan Holdsworth)

     This song is intended to be something of a "send up" or tongue-in-cheek example of a typical late '60s rock band. 
0:00: Intro in triplet time, loosely foreshadowing verse harmony.
0:10: 1st verse with full band, opening with uptempo fanfare and then relaxing into a blues-rock shuffle, with Allan's guitar loosely following his vocal melody line, leading to a psychedelic harmony vocal transition with minimal guitars.
1:04: 2nd verse.
1:18: Steve's guitar solo.
1:38: 3rd verse.
1:51: Allan's guitar solo.
2:11: 4th verse, leading to harmony vocal transition, ending in a dissonant volume swell from Steve.
2 Out Of Confusion 2:09 (Group Composition)

     This is essentially a bit of musical theater where the band members 'reject' the popular style of the day (as heard in the previous song) and try to find their own voice.  The sequencing on the album is reportedly the same as from their debut performance at Ronnie Scott's, complete with onstage banter.

0:00: Band members banter and mock themselves.
0:29: Guitars loosely improvise over bass dirge and cymbals.
0:58: Vocal narration begins, drums and bass eventually drop out.
1:46: Overlapping guitar volume swells (polychordal harmony) ending in a final unison cadence.
3 The Witch 3:03 (Written by Allan Holdsworth)

     From this point onwards, the band explores more complex harmonies, as they have found their "true style"...

0:00: Solo drum groove, then joint chromatic guitar figures, ending in accented rising chords.
0:24: Uptempo groove with polychordal guitar accents, leading to 1st verse with guitars trading chord accents (Allan often plays a pedal chord as Steve plays moving chords).
1:04: Unison chord accents with developed ornamentation.
1:17: 2nd verse, leading to more joint chromatic guitar figures, then Steve's solo over Allan's subdivided rhythmic accents.
1:52: Allan's solo over Steve's more open rhythmic accents.
2:16: 3rd verse.
2:46: Coda, based on rhythmic guitar volume swells and a final "rave up".
4 Sweet Dry Biscuits 2:52 (Written by Allan Holdsworth)

     This song features more chromatic guitar riffs as heard just previously in "The Witch".  These sound very "Bartok-ian" to me, and as the album progresses, this tendency is developed.  

0:00: Uptempo chromatic riffs.
0:12: 1st verse in a more relaxed groove, changing harmony a few times and interrupted by a brief spurt of fast syncopated guitar accents, ending in a reprise of the opening uptempo riffs.
1:03: 2nd verse, chromatic accents, etc.
1:54: 3rd verse.
2:11: Floating chord strums, drum fill, then development of syncopated guitar accents and chromatic riffs.
5 California Dreamin' 4:00 (Written by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips)

     This is a bizarre reworking of the Mama's and the Papa's song. No vocals.

0:00: Drum and bass "dirge" arrangement opening.
0:14: Guitars enter with altered harmonies of the original composition.
1:10: Uptempo variation, driven by walking bass and chromatic ornamentation (Steve solo).
1:44: Allan's guitar solo.
2:02: Rhythmic accented groove joined by joint chromatic guitar figures.
2:17: Dirge arrangement of song resumes, interrupted by a brief tempo spurt, eventually slowing down.
3:24: Steve's outro solo over dirge groove, ending in dissonant "007" chord.
6 Golden Lakes 5:12 (Written by Allan Holdsworth)

     This song includes the words "Velvet darkness" in the first verse (and this phrase will resurface in the next decade), but is otherwise a little bit nondescript to me... some nice funky bass does break through though. Allan also does some uncharacteristic guitar bends at one point.  This song will be revisited as a jazz duet with Gordon Beck on 1980's "The Things You See".

0:00: Atmospheric trills/swells lead to a pastoral groove (maybe "lake-like"?).
0:26: 1st verse with livelier drums (hi-hat), Allan adds some ornamental guitar bends near the end.
1:56: Uptempo (funky) drum and bass groove, joined by joint chromatic guitar figures.
2:08: Steve guitar solo, funky cadence, chromatic figures.
2:41: Allan's guitar solo.
3:06: Reprise of opening textures, 2nd verse.
4:23: Bass kicks off a wonky new chromatic riff (in a halting rhythm), atmospheric textures final reprise.
7 Not So Sweet Dreams 5:00 (Written by Allan Holdsworth)

     This song features Mick Skelly's bass, but is otherwise a little bit thin for me.

0:00: 1st bass solo, over cymbals.
0:26: 1st verse with opening chordal rhythm (slow march), joined by Allan's ostinato ornaments, vocal enters, navigating through various harmonic centers and a brief chromatic figure cadence.
1:16: 2nd verse.
2:06: Bridge featuring vigorous bass ornaments (essentially a bass concerto), ending in a rave-up.
3:08: 3rd verse.
3:53: 2nd bass solo (unaccompanied), final drum rolls on low toms.
8 Is She Just A Dream 4:33 (Written by Allan Holdsworth, Mick Skelly)

     This song sounds as if it's moving back towards more traditional psychedelic rock, before veering off into 'Igginbottom-land again...

0:00: Bass and Steve's guitar lead off a somewhat psychedelic relaxed groove (1st verse), ending in a bass cadenza.
0:26: A polychord kicks off a brief drum solo leading back to the 2nd verse
0:56: A guitar cadenza by Allan over a tempo spurt leads to floating chords/cymbals.
1:17: 3rd verse, ending in a Steve's turn for a double-time guitar cadenza.
1:55: Floating chords lead to development of verse groove.
2:27: 4th verse.
2:49: Allan's 2nd cadenza, floating chords, verse groove variations.
3:31: 5th verse.
3:53: Steve's 2nd cadenza, floating chords, drum roll, dissonant guitar chord ending.
9 Blind Girl 3:46 (Written by Steve Robinson)

     The highlight of this song is the "jazz guitar duet" in the middle section.  It seems to be in the spirit of unaccompanied duets by guitarists such as Jim Hall and Jimmy Raney.

0:00: Slow, gothic guitar riff section led by Steve, ending in guitar ornaments.
0:28: Bass drum kicks off uptempo groove and 1st verse.
1:13: Allan and Steve play a "jazz guitar duet" ending in some low "tolling" notes.
2:31: Brief guitar and bass ornaments lead to a short drum solo.
2:46: 2nd verse (uptempo groove).
3:17: Slow, chromatic triplet figure (creepy waltz).
10 The Donkey 10:42 (Written by Steve Robinson)

     This song is basically a jazz tune, dominated by long solos and demarcated by a "head" figure played by Steve.  The tempos during the guitar solos bounce back and forth between a loungy jazz shuffle and a fast swing beat (perhaps representing a stubborn donkey?)

0:00: Drum solo. Some fun, slightly gimmicky panning.
1:31: Slow swing beat on cymbals leads to a Doors-like jazzy lounge groove.
2:07: Livelier swing beat with melody figure (head) from Steve.
2:30: Steve solos, as Allan comps freely.  The groove switches back and forth between the loungy shuffle and the uptempo swing beat a few times.
5:25: Allan's solo begins, same groove structure as above.
7:32: Bass solo (unaccompanied).
8:54: Reprise of opening lounge groove, leading to final uptempo song head from Steve.
9:44: Steve's outro solo over lounge groove, final cadences.

"'Igginbottom's Wrench" was most recently reissued with new liner notes on Angel Air records in 2000. Though this CD is out of print, the album can be found through secondary markets or on YouTube. 

'Igginbottom guitarist Steve Robinson has recently released a new record on Art of Life Records.

The Glen South Band
     For some reason, 'Igginbottom never quite took off, and the band broke up. Allan then took a step back (musically-speaking, anyways) and embarked on three years with the 12-piece Glen South Band (first playing the Mecca Sunderland circuit and then later the Ritz in Manchester), covering Top 40 tunes and/or providing background dance music, depending on the gig.
     "He gave me quite a lot of freedom in that band. There were generally two solos in every song - we had to eke them out back then. I always played the first solo as it was on the record, but for the second solo Glen used to let me do my own thing. It was good also, because I had all that time during the day to practice..." (29)  
(Glen South Band publicity shot, from "Reaching For the Uncommon Chord", including Allan and Dave Freeman)
     About two years into this "cover band" career, Allan would find himself rediscovered by visiting Londoner Ray Warleigh at a Musicians Union clinic...

Next: The London Jazz Scene
Previously: Prelude, with Debussy and Coltrane

Go to the Table of Contents... 

The numbers in parentheses after Allan's quotes above refer to sources listed in the Bibliography.  
For more detailed information on this chapter, see the Annotated Chronology.


    1. Steve Robinson has an album out Called "Recalled To Life-Chapter One" on Art Of Life Records. It's available on iTunes and Amazon. BUY IT!

      1. "Chapter Two" might be out soon, if the virus hasn't spoiled things. I suggest you buy it.

    2. It was while Allan was in Sunderland with Glen South that he bought a violin from a local second-hand shop and set about learning to play it. By his own estimation he was able to reach a professional standard on it within about six months as of course we heard when he went on to play it on a few of his recordings.
      More trivia: the Glen South band were a Yorkshire band and their move of 200 miles to Sunderland merited a short article in the Yorkshire Evening Post newspaper on 29 October 1969. The author of that article is thought to be their music correspondent, a young Mark Knopfler. Small world...

    3. Hello,
      "Recalled To Life - Chapter Two" has just been released by Art Of Life Records. It is especially poignant as my old friend Steve died of Covid-19 in December 2020. Not only have we lost a special musician but I've lost one of the most influential people in my life.
      I recommend you purchase the album.