Bruford was an English jazz-rock supergroup that released four albums on Polydor/EG between 1978 and 1980. The band was headed by ex-Yes drummer Bill Bruford and featured former Tempest/Soft Machine guitarist Allan Holdsworth and one-time Egg/Hatfield keyboardist Dave Stewart. The supergroup’s first album, Feels Good to Me, was recorded amid Bruford and Holdsworth’s involvement in UK and Stewart’s immersion in National Health.

Members: Bill Bruford (drums, electronic drums, percussion), Jeff Berlin (bass, vocals), Dave Stewart (keyboards, synthesizer), Allan Holdsworth (guitar, 1977-79), John Clark [The Unknown John Clark] (guitar, 1979-80)

Bill Bruford: Background

Bill Bruford (b. May 17, 1949, Sevenoaks, Kent) took up drums at age thirteen, inspired by Art Blakey, Ginger Baker, and Max Roach. His first band was The Breed, an R&B/beat combo with bassist Ray Bennett (later of the Yes-spinoff Flash). After an abortive three-gig stint with Savoy Brown, which sacked him for complicating their rhythmic patterns, he joined Paper Blitz Tissue, a pop-psych band with Scottish guitarist and songwriter Miller Anderson (Keef Hartley Band, Dog Soldier). In mid-1968, he did a six-week residency in Rome with The Noise, a band he deemed too unprofessional for his liking.

Back in London, Bill placed an ad in the musician’s section of Melody Maker that was spotted by singer Jon Anderson of the fledgling psych band Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, formed by bassist Chris Squire and guitarist Peter Banks. Bill’s arrival, along with keyboardist Tony Kaye, transformed the band into Yes, which signed to Atlantic and released the 1969/70 albums Yes and Time and a Word. After Banks cleared for guitarist Steve Howe, they scored a transatlantic breakthrough with their 1971 release The Yes Album. Kaye cleared for keyboardist Rick Wakeman, completing the classic lineup that made the 1971/72 albums Fragile and Close to the Edge.

Sensing Yes had peaked, Bill jumped ship to King Crimson for the 1973/74 albums Larks’ Tongues in Aspic and Starless and Bible Black. They trimmed to the trio of Bruford, guitarist Robert Fripp, and bassist/singer John Wetton for the late 1974 release Red, after which Fripp placed the band in a holding pattern.

During 1975, Bill played on HQ, the eighth studio album by singer-songwriter Roy Harper. He also played on solo albums by his ex-bandmates Howe (Beginnings) and Squire (Fish Out of Water). Along with fellow drummer Jon Hiseman (Colosseum II), Bill played snare on “Hunters,” a track on the RSO release Peter and the Wolf, a jazz-rock all-star interpretation of Prokofiev’s 1936 children’s symphonic fairy tale. Late that year, Bill joined National Health, formed from the ashes of Hatfield and the North by keyboardist Dave Stewart and guitarist Phil Miller with keyboardist Alan Gowan (Gilgamesh) and bassist Mont Campbell (Egg). They gigged and demoed material but Bruford quit during their lengthy search for a contract.

In the spring–summer of 1976, Bill drummed on the tour behind A Trick of the Tail by Genesis, allowing the group’s drummer, Phil Collins, to concentrate on his new role as vocalist since the departure of original frontman Peter Gabriel.

Soon after, Bill jammed in the US with guitarist Ray Gomez and bassist Jeff Berlin, but a proposed band didn’t materialize due to the geographic distances of their respective home bases. Meanwhile, Bill played on 1976 albums by St. Louis art rockers Pavlov’s Dog (At the Sound of the Bell) and the English new age combo Absolute Elsewhere (In Search of Ancient Gods).

In late 1976, Bill rehearsed with Wakeman and Wetton for a proposed super-trio that got stymied amid premature publicity and conflicting contracts. While Wakeman reclaimed his spot in Yes from his temporarily replacement Patrick Moraz (Mainhorse, Refugee), Bruford and Wetton looked for other joint possibilities, such as luring Fripp into another round of Crimson activity (a proposition declined).

As band talks stalled, Wetton — who did a 1975/76 stint with Uriah Heep and served as touring bassist for Roxy Music — honored backing commitments with Bryan Ferry. Meanwhile, Bill prepared a solo album, enlisting Stewart, Berlin, and up-and-coming jazz-rock guitarist Allan Holdsworth, who’d done stints in ‘Igginbottom, Tempest, Soft Machine, and the New Tony Williams Lifetime. This formation, possibly conceived as a one-off, dubbed itself Bruford to emphasize the principal force behind the project.

1978: Feels Good to Me

Bruford released their debut album, Feels Good to Me, in January 1978 on EG/Polydor. Bill composed four of the album’s seven instrumentals, including “Beelzebub,” “Either End of August,” and the title track. He collaborated with Stewart on “Sample and Hold,” “If You Can’t Stand the Heat…,” and the drummer-less “Springtime In Siberia,” a candlelight piano number with ECM flugelhorn player Kenny Wheeler.

American jazz vocalist Annette Peacock sings on three numbers: “Back to the Beginning,” “Seems Like a Lifetime Ago (Part One),” and “Adios a la Pasada (Goodbye to the Past),” the last featuring her poetry. Additional guests include Brand X guitarist John Goodsall (rhythm on “Feels Good to Me”) and National Health bassist Neil Murray (unspecified).

Sessions took place in August 1977 at Trident Studios, London. Bill co-produced Feels Good to Me with Robin Lumley, the keyboardist in Brand X who co-headed the 1976 side project Marscape with reedist Jack Lancaster (Blodwyn Pig, Aviator). The engineer on both albums, Stephen W. Tayler, also worked on 1976/77 titles by Brand X (Moroccan Roll), Charlie (No Second Chance), Gong (Gazeuse!), Isotope, Kayak (Starlight Dancer), Narada Michael Walden (Garden of Love Light), Nova, and Shakti.

Dutch design firm Cream conceived the Feels Good cover, where Bill puts his hand to a gong with a cymbal wing between his fingers. The photographer, Gered Mankowitz, took cover pics during the ’60s for albums by Fat Mattress, Flaming Youth, Giles, Giles and Fripp, The Nice, Nirvana (All of Us), The Rolling Stones (Between the Buttons), Spooky Tooth (It’s All About), and Traffic (Traffic). His more recent credits included visuals for Atomic Rooster, Dana Gillespie, Easy Street (Under the Glass), Estus, Gino Vannelli (The Gist of the Gemini), Groundhogs (Solid), Jobriath, Murray Head (Say It Ain’t So), Shoot, and Sparks (Indiscreet). His prior meeting with Bill occurred during the photoshoot for Red.

Bruford plugged Feels Good with an appearance on The Old Gray Whistle Test, performing “Feels Good to Me” and “Back to the Beginning” on the 2/28/78 broadcast.


Between the recording and release date of Feels Good to Me, Bill renewed his commitment to launch a band with Wetton. They agreed to each pick a member to complete the proposed quartet. Bill chose Holdsworth, having just worked with him on Feels Good. Wetton chose violinist and keyboardist Eddie Jobson, who he’d gigged with in Roxy Music.

Collectively, they became U.K. and commenced sessions at Trident in December 1977. Their self-titled album, completed just as Feels Good hit shelves, was released in March 1978. Bill also backed Annette Peacock on portions of her second solo album, the 1978 Aura release X-Dreams, recorded with a large pool of talent, including saxophonist Ray Warleigh, bassist Jeff Clyne (Nucleus, Turning Point), keyboardist Peter Lemer (Seventh Wave, Baker Gurvitz Army), and guitarists Mick Ronson, Jim Mullen (Morrissey Mullen), Brian Godding (Blossom Toes, Centipede, Magma), and Phil Lee (Gilgamesh, Paz).

Meanwhile, Stewart devoted himself to National Health, whose debut album was finally released in February 1978, one month after Feels Good (despite having been completed seven month’s before Bruford’s album in March 1977). In mid-1978, they swapped out Murray (who joined Whitesnake) for ex-Henry Cow bassist John Greaves. Their second album, Of Queues and Cures, appeared that December.

Berlin — whose pre-Feels Good credits include albums by Moraz (The Story of i), Esther Phillips, and Patti Austin — kept busy with 1977/78 titles by Al Foster, Don Pullen, Ernie Krivda, Pee Wee Ellis, and Ray Barretto. 

As U.K. toured their album, conflicts arose between the Bruford–Holdsworth and Jobson–Wetton camps. The latter — which favored the classic symphonic-rock style — fired Holdsworth, whose improvisational approach was deemed unsuited to their structured music. Bruford followed suit, taking with him two unrecorded instrumentals from U.K.’s recent live set: “Forever Until Sunday” and “Sahara of Snow.” Jobson and Wetton hired Zappa drummer Terry Bozzio and continued as a trio.

Elsewhere, National Health ran aground after their second album when drummer Pip Pyle joined Soft Heap, a Soft Machine-spinoff led by Hugh Hopper. With the Feels Good lineup free of external commitments, they reconvened under the Bruford moniker.

1979: One of a Kind

Bruford released their second album, One of a Kind, in June 1979 on EG/Polydor. Side one contains two six-minute Bill compositions: “Travels with Myself – And Someone Else” and “Fainting in Coils,” the latter with narrated text by Victorian children’s fiction author Lewis Carroll. The title-track is split in two parts, the second co-written by Stewart, who collaborated with Gowan on the opening track “Hell’s Bells.”

Side two contains a three-way co-write with Berlin (“Five G”) and Holdsworth’s only composition for the band (“The Abingdon Chasp”). The album wraps with the two numbers taken from U.K.’s live set: Bill’s “Forever Until Sunday,” where Jobson guests on violin; and “The Sahara of Snow,” divided in two parts, the second co-written by Jobson.

Bill produced One of a Kind at Trident during January–February 1979 with Tayler, who also engineered the concurrent releases Aviator and Wild Connections, Lancaster’s collaborative effort with Dutch keyboardist Rick van der Linden (Ekseption, Trace). One of a Kind was mastered by Steve Angel, a technical hand on 1979 singles by The Clash, Cowboys International, Graham Parker, Ian Dury, Killing Joke, Lemon Kittens, Lene Lovich, Madness, The Pretenders, The Psychedelic Furs, Skids, and Siouxsie & the Banshees.

One of a Kind sports a cover designed by Alwyn Clayden (The Associates, Barclay James Harvest, Sad Cafe, Visage) that shows Bill staring down at a glowing amber orb in the dark. The photographer, John Shaw, also took the similar snapshot on the 1979 release Back to the Egg by Wings, as well as the controversial topless vampire image on Angel Station by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. The Bruford group photo on the inner-sleeve was taken by Sheila Rock, also responsible for the iconic covers of the first two albums by Joe Jackson: Look Sharp! and I’m the Man (both 1979).

“Hell’s Bells” appears on PolyGram’s November New Releases, a Canadian cassette-only promo comp with cuts by the Atlanta Rhythm Section, Brand X (“Don’t Make Waves”), The Boomtown Rats, The Flying Lizards, Garfield, Horslips, The Human League, and Peter Hammill.

Lineup Change, The Bruford Tapes

Just prior to a spring–summer North American tour in support of One of a Kind, Bruford lost Holdsworth, who played on Time Is the Key by Pierre Moerlen’s Gong and teamed with jazz pianist Gordon Beck on three 1979/80 albums. Bruford hired a recent student of Holdsworth, guitarist John Clark of the band Quasar.

On July 12, 1979, Bruford played a nine-song set at My Father’s Place in Roslyn, New York, for broadcast on the local station WLIR, FM 92.7. The set featured faithful and rearranged numbers from the two albums. Later that year, EG released the show as a live album: The Bruford Tapes. The credits list the new guitarist as “the unknown John Clark,” a joking reference to his obscurity in relation to the other band members.

1980: Gradually Going Tornado

Bruford’s third and final studio album, Gradually Going Tornado, appeared in February 1980 on EG/Polydor. Berlin wrote “Joe Frazier,” a showcase for his nimble bass work. He also sings lead on half the tracks, including Bill’s “Plans for J.D.” and the two opening numbers, “Age of Information” and “Gothic 17,” both co-writes between Bill and Dave. Jeff also sings on “The Sliding Floor,” which he co-wrote with the pair.

Bill and Dave also co-wrote “Q.E.D.,” which has a lengthy, sparse fade-in section, followed with passages of contrapuntal interplay and dropout soloing: a format reminiscent of National Health. Stewart’s closing piece, the 10-minute “Land’s End,” features ex-Northettes Amanda Parsons and Barbara Gaskin. Toward the final stretch, it appropriates the riff from “The Bryden 2-Step” off Of Queues and Cures. Bill lone-wrote “Palewell Park,” a drummer-less four minutes of fretless bass and light piano, played by Bill himself.

Bill produced Gradually Going Tornado at Surrey Sound Studios during October–November 1979 with engineer Ron Malo, whose credits include albums by Deniece Williams, Maxine Nightingale, and Weather Report (Black Market, Heavy Weather). The assistant engineer, Martin Moss, worked on albums by Dave Greenslade, The Enid, Jethro Tull (Songs from the Wood), and The Planets (Goon Hilly Down).

Cellist Georgie Born — who replaced Greaves in Henry Cow and played on “The Bryden 2-Step” — appears on the slow, quiet sections of “Gothic 17,” an otherwise brisk, synth-laden rock number. Georgie’s other credits from this period include titles by the Buzzcocks, The Raincoats, Stormy Six, and fellow Cow alumna Lindsay Cooper.

Gradually Going Tornado sports a cover designed by Romanian artist Paul Neagu, based on a live physical performance he did in 1974 at Grampian studios for Scottish television.

After Bruford

Bill Bruford was summoned by Fripp into a new King Crimson with two American musicians: guitarist Adrian Belew (Zappa, David Bowie, Talking Heads) and bassist Tony Levin (Carly Simon, Herbie Mann, Peter Gabriel). They made the 1981–84 albums Discipline, Beat, and Three of a Perfect Pair.

Bill also cut two drum/piano improv albums with Moraz, who used Bruford on his 1984 album Time Code. The two had interacted on one track (“All’s a Chord”) on The Steve Howe Album (which also features Bill’s replacement in Yes, Alan White, on two tracks, including the Claire Hamill-sung “Look Over Your Shoulder”). During the late ’80s, Bill formed Earthworks and played on albums by David Torn and Kazumi Watanabe. In 1989, he reunited with four-fifths of the 1972 Yes lineup for the Arista release Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe.

Dave Stewart formed Rapid Eye Movement with Pyle and guitarist Jakko Jakszyk. They toured Europe but never made a record. In 1981, Stewart hit the UK singles chart in collaboration with ex-Zombies vocalist Colin Blunstone (“What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”) and Barbara Gaskin (“It’s My Party”). As a tribute to Alan Gown, who died of leukemia in 1981, Stewart reassembled National Health for the 1982 release D.S. Al Coda, comprised of unrecorded late-period Gowan competitions. Dave and Barbara continued their partnership as a synthpop duo.

Jeff Berlin played on early ’80s albums by Holdsworth, Jakob Magnusson, and T Lavitz. On the Passport Jazz label, he made two 1985/86 albums under his own name: Champion (with Vox Humana) and Pump It! In 1987, Humana released an album as Players with drummer Steve Smith (Journey). Berlin interacted with Bill Bruford on the late ’80s Watanabe discs.

John Clark joined Cliff Richard‘s backing band, starting with the singer’s 1981 release Wired for Sound, produced by Alan Tarney. Clark stuck with Richard throughout the decade and also played on albums by B. A. Robertson, Billy Nicholls, and CCM singers Dave Pope, Paul Field, and Sheila Walsh.

In the late ’90s, a clutch of live Bruford discs were pressed by the Japanese bootleg label Highland, all taken from 1979–80 North American concert dates during Clark’s tenure.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *