Spark Records SRLP 102 (U.K.)
Sire Records (U.S.A.)
1. Woman You Need Love (Willie Dixon)
2. Nobody by my side (MacDonald/Thorndycraft/Clarke)
3. Come Home Baby (MacDonald/Thorndycraft/Clarke)
4. Bedtime Blues (MacDonald/Thorndycraft/Clarke)
5. Sunday Morning (Martin)
6. Try to Understand (MacDonald/Thorndycraft/Clarke)
7. My Mind Can Ride Easy (MacDonald/Thorndycraft/Clarke)
8. Wet (MacDonald/Thorndycraft/Clarke/Martin/Smith)
9. Keep On Walking (MacDonald/Thorndycraft/Clarke)
10. Forget It (MacDonald/Thorndycraft/Clarke)
11. Lou's Blues (Martin)
12. People Change Your Mind (MacDonald/Thorndycraft/Clarke/Smith)
Bill Thorndycraft - Vocals / Harp
Mick Clarke - Lead Guitar
Lou Martin - Keyboards
Bazz Smith - Drums
Stuart MacDonald - Bass
Recorded at Pye Studios, London
Produced by John Edward
In the late 1960s every major record company in the U.K. had to have a blues band on its roster. It was the In Thing. The only time in my entire life actually, that I have been "trendy". Consequently, when KILLING FLOOR was looking for a label for its first album release we hit the streets of London's West End and went knocking on the doors of the major companies. One by one we met with rejection. Muff Winwood at Island told us "Sorry, we've just signed a blues band"..well they only wanted one each, and we were late getting in. But our manager John Edward had a connection with the publishing company Southern Music, and they were starting a small record label, "Spark". So "Spark" it was.
We recorded, at least, in a major studio. Pye Recording Studios, just off Marble Arch in the West End of London, was where many hits of the time were made. You might find the Kinks or Status Quo roamimg the corridors - the larger studio had even hosted Frank Sinatra and a big band. So the studio and the engineering personnel were first rate. However the sessions did not always run smoothly.
The first shock we received on the first day's recording was to be told that all the material had to be original, for publishing reasons. This was a little awkward as we had a complete set of Chicago Blues originals whch we'd been rehearsing and playing for the last six months. Consequently Bill, our singer, went and sat in the toilets at Pye Studios and reluctantly rewrote all the lyrics.
Classic blues songs suddenly became originals - the only one that escaped the treatment was Willie Dixon's "You Need Love". Actually the songs had all been re-arranged to such an extent that they were already halfway to becoming originals. The change of lyric just completed the process, but some of them are still quite recogniseable.
It was exciting to be in a professional studio for the first time and I'd say we all enjoyed the recording, though at times it was a comedy of errors. We recorded far too much music for a normal vinyl long player and had to cut large chunks out. At least one number starts half way through, and the whole album is full of mistakes both in the music and the production.
But none of this should detract from the good qualities of the session. The band was definitely rocking - we'd had several months of playing the material live and it was ready to go down on tape. Every track is bursting with energy and enthusiasm. We also employed a lot of arrangements in our songs, which was something that very few blues bands of the time were doing. I won't mention the fact that nearly all of the arranged parts had been meticulously lifted from other bands and albums. It never occurred to us that the American bands whose arrangements we'd "borrowed" might one day walk in to a record shop in Chicago and buy this new British blues album, only to hear their own ideas coming back at them! Still, the way the ideas were woven into our own created an end product that was certainly unique.
A strange postscript to all this "songwriting" was that one of the songs was later covered on an album by blues giant Jimmy Witherspoon! He probably got to hear our album because at one time there was talk of us backing him on a British tour. When I finally heard his version recently I found that he'd pretty much re-written the whole song, but actually it sounds great..("Come Home Baby" on the album "Spoonful of Blues").
Lou Martin added a touch of class to the Killing Floor album with two completely original solo keyboard pieces.."Lou's Blues", a flat out boogie woogie assault, and a hymn-like "Sunday Morning", played on a harpsichord that we found in the studio left over from a Pink Floyd session, and committed to tape just before the men came to take it away! "My Mind can Ride Easy" had session men brought in to provide a horn section, as it was intended for release as a single. It also had a bongo player added, and some "dooby dooby dooing" at the end, perpetrated by an untrained vocal team of which I was a participant. In the event the single was only released in Germany, under the title "Wow Wow Wow!"
The album was actually very well received when it came out, being at least an exciting and unusual record, standing out from the more traditional blues offerings that most British bands were coming out with at the time. It sold OK, and was distributed all over the world, though we didn't know much about that at the time. It was also released in the U.S.A. by the new London subsidary "Sire", and again sold well with good reviews. If we'd taken the band over to the States at that time we might well have been very successful.
But for KILLING FLOOR, things were never straight forward. On receiving our first copy of the finished album we were appalled to find that only one side of the stereo was audible. The lead guitar had practically disappeared. We marched, en masse, up to our producer's flat in East London, where he calmly played the record on his system. It sounded perfect! Nevertheless, on many systems of the time, including some radio station turntables, the record was only half present. I remember taking the album to the home of Mike Raven, the BBC radio presenter who was to write the sleeve notes, and cringeing while we listened to half the sound on his record player. I'm happy to say that modern CD versions present the album as it should have been heard all those years ago.
Marketing the album was another joy. We sat in the office of the head of Spark Records while he told us that they would only be advertising the album if it sold. They would only advertise the album if it sold. Can you work that one out? We never did.
"KILLING FLOOR" was later reissued on the Spark "Replay" series, and then again on both "See For Miles" (See For Miles SEECD 355) and the German label "Repertoire" (REP 4532-WP). It has recently been released on the Italian label "Akarma" on both CD and Vinyl, available from our CD Shop.
The cover illustrated above is from the original American release on Sire Records.
Below (L to R): The original British cover on Spark Records (also used for the Akarma release) and the re-release on "See For Miles".
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