Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker was an English post-psych band that released the album Heavy Rock Spectacular on Windmill in 1972.

Members: Tony Bronsdon (organ), John Bavin (bass), Pete Ballam (guitar, 1969-72), Rob Haines (drums, 1969-72)


The nucleus of Bram Stoker formed when ex-Shadows bassist Jet Harris assembled three musicians — organist Tony Bronsdon (ex-Renaissance Fare), guitarist Pete Ballam and drummer Rob Haines (both formerly of The Feel and Freedom Village) — for Harris Tweed, a followup act to his now-defunct partnership with Tony Meehan.

They rehearsed at the Henry Brown Youth Club in West Howe, where they practiced a post-psych arrangement of the English trad ballad “Scarborough Fair.” One afternoon, Harris arrived on the back of an aggressive horse that gnawed Ballam’s leather jacket and indented the club’s parquet floor with hoof marks. Later that day, Ballam was stunned motionless by an improperly grounded microphone.

Weary of the club’s improperly earthed wiring and Jet’s inebriated antics, Brodson, Ballam, and Haines regrouped in Bournemouth in the summer of 1969 with bassist friend Jon Bavin. All had backgrounds in the south coast beat scene, including The Trappers, the Kapota All Stars, and Dorset-based German travelers The Crescendoes. Inspired by themes of macabre in the psychedelic scene (Arcadium, Black Widow, Coven, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown), they named their new band after Bram Stoker, the Irish Victorian author best known for his 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula.

Bram Stoker rehearsed in a loft above a pub in Poole and undertook the nation’s club and college circuit. They played numerous multi-bills with fellow up-and-comers at Royal Holloway College (with Genesis), Dunstable’s Civic Ballrooms (with Yes and Caravan), Torquay’s Marquay Club (with Family), Dagenham’s Roundhouse (with T. Rex), and London’s Temple (with May Blitz, Juicy Lucy, and Blonde on Blonde) and the Marquee (with Argent, the Groundhogs, and Queen-prototype Smile).

Hallmarks of their act included the haunting sounds of Bronsdon’s Hammond organ and the Doppler spinning effects of Haines’ cymbals and Ballam’s speaker cabinet.

Recording Sessions

Bram Stoker supported The Who at the Bournemouth Pavilion, where they impressed frontman Roger Daltery, who invited them to his Berkshire home to cut a six-song demo tape. Another interested party was producer Derek Lawrence (Deep Purple, Wishbone Ash, Warm Dust, Flash), who summoned them to London’s De Lane Lea Studios with engineer Martin Birch (Fleetwood Mac, Skin Alley, Steamhammer, Beggars Opera). However, the band balked at an offer from Purple’s management team.

In 1970, Rolling Stones associate Tony Calder spotted Bram Stoker at Brunel University and summed them for a one-day session at Morgan Studios with producer Tony Chapman (Delivery, Northwind, Tear Gas). They recorded their set live in the studio. Though intended for released on Immediate Records, Calder subsequently sold his share in the label, which folded within months. The album was vaulted indefinitely.

Heavy Rock Spectacular

In 1972, the Chapman tapes landed at the offices of Windmill Records, a label known for its pinup-adorned album covers and cash-in compilations of anonymously rerecorded hits. Windmill released the tapes as Heavy Rock Spectacular without the band’s knowledge. 

The album features eight songs, all Bronsdon originals, including “Ants,” “Idiot,” “Fast Decay,” and “Born to be Free.” Titles like “Fingals Cave,” “Extensive Corrosion,” and “Poltergeist” evince Bram Stoker’s macabre fixation.

Heavy Rock Spectacular appeared in a single sleeve with little info apart from the tracklist and a reprinted letter of recommendation on the band’s behalf, addressed to Windmill by one Paul Henry. The cover shows the face of a model, obscured by color-saturated overlays.

Later Activity

Bram Stoker did a spring 1971 tour of Holland, where they gained a cult following. In their final months, Bavin cleared out for bassist Tony Lowe.

Bavin later worked as an engineer on albums by the Eurythmics, Daryl Hall, Bob Geldof, and Kiki Dee. Lowe played on albums by B-Movie and Modern English.

In 1997, Audio Archives reissued Heavy Rock Spectacular under a new title, Schizo – Poltergeist., with revised cover art (haunted forest corridor). In 2007, the album was reissued on DigiMix Records Ltd as Rock Paranoia with a ghastly illustration evocative of death metal artwork. Heavy Rock Spectacular has also been pressed on CD with its original cover and title by Akarma, Universum Records, and Belle Antique.

Bram Stoker re-formed in 2009 with Bronsdon, Bavin, and Lowe. They released the discs Cold Reading(2013) and No Reflection (2019).

In 2018, Ballam released a solo album, Manic Machine, one year before his death at age 76.


  • Heavy Rock Spectacular (1972)


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