Aubrey Small

Aubrey Small was an English pop-rock band that released a self-titled album on Polydor in 1971.

Members: Peter Pinckney (lead guitar, vocals), Rod Taylor (keyboards, vocals), Alan Christmas (guitar, vocals), David Yearley (bass, vocals), Graham Hunt (drums, guitar, vocals, 1969-72), Barry Shute (drums, 1972-73)


Aubrey Small formed in Portsmouth in late 1969 when guitarist Alan Christmas and keyboardist Rod Taylor teamed with bassist David Yearley and drummer Graham Hunt.

Taylor hailed from beatsters the Isle of Wight Cherokees, which self-pressed the 1966 EP I.O.W. Cherokees and issued the 1967 Polydor single “I Feel Good” (b/w “Deep Blue Feeling”).

Hunt, a child prodigy on drums and xylophone, played the latter on a 1956 broadcast of the BBC children’s series All Your Own. He played in numerous Portsmouth beat groups during the mid–late ’60s.

Aubrey Small made their live debut at the South Parade Pier in Southsea on Valentine’s Day 1970. Weeks later, guitarist and singer Peter Pinckney joined the band.

That June, they played Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, their subsequent place of residency. Within a month, labels were taking note and the group signed a publishing deal with Alan Keen (Gun, Granny’s Intentions, Quiet World). They were taken under the managerial wing of Chips Chipperfield, a later film producer (The Beatles Anthology) who also managed Keith Tippett‘s big band project Centipede.

In August, BBC DJ Bob Harris (substituting for John Peel) picked Aubrey Small over Lindisfarne for inclusion in a broadcast of the Radio One program Sounds of the Seventies. Aubrey Small would appear in five broadcasts over the next two years.

On September 16, 1970, Aubrey Small opened for Eric Burdon & War at Ronnie’s, where Jimi Hendrix was in the audience. Impressed, Hendrix sat in with the young band for an impromptu jam. This would be the last public appearance of the guitar icon, who died on the 18th at age 27.

In October, Aubrey Small played the Birmingham venue the Mothers at Erdington, where drummer John Bonham of Led Zeppelin sat in with the band for a 30-minute jam. The following month, they played an all-nighter with Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies at Flamingo in Soho. When they arrived, the club was packed to standing-room only; the band had to crowd-surf their instruments and gear from the front door to the stage.

After a second Sounds of the Seventies showcase — recorded live at the Paris Theatre on Lower Regent Street with Ian Carr’s Nucleus —  Aubrey Small entered London’s Trident Studios to record their album.

The Album

Aubrey Small released their self-titled album in October 1971 on Polydor. It features six songs per side, including five Hunt compositions: two on side one (“For My Lady,” “Why?”) and the core of side two (“If I Were You,” “Smoker Will Blow,” “Oh What a Day It’s Been!”). The album also contains three Pinckney numbers (“Country Road,” “It’s Morning,” “Love On”), two Christmas cuts (“Gardenia,” “Wonderful”), and two Pinckney/Taylor co-writes (“Trying to Find My Way,” “Born to Be”).

Aubrey Small was produced by John Anthony, who produced numerous 1969–71 albums by acts on Charisma (Lindisfarne, Rare Bird) and Vertigo (Affinity, May Blitz). In 1971 alone, he produced albums by Genesis (Nursery Cryme), Peter Hammill (Fool’s Mate), and Van der Graaf Generator (Pawn Hearts).

At Anthony’s suggestion, conductor Richard Hewson was brought in to arrange strings and brass on “Smoker Will Blow.” Additional guests include Lindisfarne harpist Ray Jackson and musician Mike Vickers, the one-time guitarist and saxist in Manfred Mann who played synthesizer on select passages, having recently done the same on “Time Machine” by Mick Softley.

The engineer on Aubrey Small was Ken Scott, who also worked on 1971 albums by Elton John, Sweet Slag, Al Kooper, and America. His first production credit, the Hunky Dory album by David Bowie, appeared two months after Aubrey Small.

As the band laid tracks for Aubrey Small, Harry Nilsson was at Trident recording his seventh album, Nilsson Schmilsson. This gave Taylor a chance to reconnect with two old friends from Southampton: guitarist Ian Duck and drummer Roger Pope of Hookfoot, Elton’s backing band that played on the Schmilsson cut “Coconut.”

The bubble cover illustration is credited to the design team Davis/Berney/Wade, which featured cover artists Grahame Berney (Shelagh McDonald, Stud, Mainhorse, Jackson Heights) and Keith Davis (Caravan, Mighty Baby, Focus, Gypsy).

Later Activity

Aubrey Small released one post-album single: the Pinckney rocker “The Loser,” released in March 1972. It was co-produced between the band and Andy Stephens, a recent engineer on albums by Orange Bicycle and the Edgar Broughton Band. “Oh What a Day It’s Been!” reappeared here as the b-side.

Their connection with Anthony led to guest appearances on his next production, Orange, the fourth album by Al Stewart. It features Hunt as one of three drummers (along with Pope) in a studio ensemble that included Rick Wakeman and members of Quiver. Though uncredited, Yearley was invited to play bass. Pinckney and Taylor were summoned later in the sessions to do backing vocals with Elton-associate Lesley Duncan.

Harris and Peel championed Aubrey Small throughout the band’s existence. In the later months, Harris played a hands-on guidance role. In 1973, there was talk of them going to Los Angeles to sign with Elektra/Asylum as a soft-pop roster replacement for the soon-to-disband Bread. This never came to pass.

The members of Aubrey Small kept in touch over the years and reunited in 2006 to mark the 60th birthdays of Christmas, Taylor, and Yearly. Pinckney, who now lived in Toulouse, France, flew in to attend. The occasion honored Hunt, who died from illness complications in 1999.

Reissues, Archives

Aubrey Small was first reissued on its 30th anniversary in 2001 by UK archivists Elegy, which also reissued folk-psych titles by Synanthesia, C.O.B., Westwind, Justine, Frogmorton, and Wooden Horse. This version adds “The Loser” as the CD opening track. During the 2010s, the album was reissued twice on LP (Record Collector Magazine, UK) and CD (Flawed Gems, Sweden) with a second bonus track, the previously unreleased “Maybe Tomorrow.”

In 2015, the disc Radio Broadcasts appeared on the French Sony sub-label Small. Drawn from 1970–71 Sounds of the Seventies broadcasts, it features nine tracks, eight of them never released in any other form.


  • Aubrey Small (1971)


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