Clear Blue Sky

Clear Blue Sky was an English psychedelic hard-rock band from Acton that released a self-titled album on Vertigo in 1970.

Members: John Simms (guitar, vocals), Ken White (drums), Mark Sheater (bass), Maxine Marten (vocals, percussion), Kraznet Montpelier (bass, vocals), Ted Landon (bass)


Clear Blue Sky started in 1968 as Jug Blues, formed by three sixteen-year-olds at the Priory Youth Centre, Acton: bassist Mark Sheater, drummer Ken White, and guitarist–singer John Simms. After some months on London’s college circuit as Maluse, then X, they won a talent competition at the Marquee Club and impressed Donovan‘s manager Ashley Kozak.

X made contact with Vertigo talent scout Patrick Campbell-Lyons, the mastermind of orchestral psychsters Nirvana and a one-time denizen of the Acton mod scene with his earlier band The Second Thoughts, which also featured (future July, Jade Warrior) musician Jon Field. Campbell-Lyons secured a deal for the trio, now all eighteen years of age, who renamed their act Clear Blue Sky.

On November 20, 1970, Clear Blue Sky played the Haverstock Hill Country Club as the opening act for Van Der Graaf Generator. Sessions for their debut album took place over three days at Island Studios with Campbell-Lyons behind the boards.

Clear Blue Sky (the album)

Clear Blue Sky released their self-titled album in December 1970 on the Vertigo swirl label (UK, Germany, France, Australia, ZA). Side one consists of the 18.5-minute Journey to the Inside of the Sun, a suite comprised of three parts: “Sweet Leaf” (9:30), “The Rocket Ride” (5:57), and “I’m Comin’ Home” (3:05). Simms composed that and the four numbers on side two: “You Mystify” (7:45) and the 4–5-minute songs “Tool of My Trade,” “My Heaven,” and “Birdcatcher.” 

Campbell-Lyons produced Clear Blue Sky around the same time as the RCA release Aquila, the singular album by Welsh brass-rockers Aquila (a Blonde on Blonde offshoot). The engineer, Roger Beale, also worked on 1970/71 titles by artists on Island (Amazing Blondel, Spooky Tooth), B & C (Hannibal, Keith Christmas), and Reprise (Family). Unlisted instrumental supplements were provided by Field (flute on “Birdcatcher”) and an unnamed organist from Tom Jones’ backing band.

Rising artist Roger Dean designed and illustrated the Clear Blue Sky gatefold, which shows pterodactyls evading sky fire near a cloud-laden castle top (front) and a red cybernetic dragon hovering ominously against a stark white sky (inner-gates). This is one of Dean’s five earliest album covers, which also include the 1968 eponymous debut by Gun and 1970 albums by Dr. Strangely Strange, Junco Partners, and Nucleus.

Moody Blues insider Nick Massey wrote the liner notes, stating “The three of them are only eighteen but their musical ability is years ahead. They are still all semi-professional, so I wonder what they’ll feel like in a year’s time. Only time and a Clear Blue Sky will tell.” The album’s working title, Play It Loud, was dropped at the last minute due to a just-released namesake album by Slade. The original UK release of Clear Blue Sky (cat# 6360 013) appeared between titles by Manfred Mann Chapter Three (Volume Two) and Juicy Lucy.

“Birdcatcher” appears as “Bird Catcher” on Heads Together / First Round, a 1971 Vertigo comp with cuts by Assagai, Jimmy Campbell, Magna Carta, Tudor Lodge, Pete Atkin, Jade Warrior, Nirvana, and Campbell-Lyons’ shortplayer projects (Sunbird, Lassoo). The song also appears on The Vertigo Trip, a two-LP Australian comp with tracks by label legends Black Sabbath, Catapilla, Gentle Giant, Gravy Train, May Blitz, Patto, and Warhorse.

Later Activity

Sheather married and dropped from the band, which hired bassist Kraznet Montpelier. Clear Blue Sky continued on the live circuit. On October 22, 1972, they played Liverpool’s Cavern Club as the opening act for Budgie.

In 1973, Clear Blue Sky demoed four new songs: “Destiny” (9:25), “Pick Up,” “Bottom of Your Soul,” and “Vagabonds.” Further songs were taped in 1974 (“Follow the Light,” “Back On the Road Again,” “Waiting for the Day”) and 1975 (“Killing Time”). These, along with the lost 1971 track “When I Call Your Name,” are collected on the CD Destiny, first released on Saturn Records in 1990, the same year Clear Blue Sky made its CD debut on Repertoire Records (Germany).

Clear Blue Sky disbanded in 1975 when White teamed with bassist Smith Campbell (ex-Hokus Poke) in The Needle, which never made it to record. Simms surfaced in the Ginger Baker Band, formed after the drummer’s stint in Hawkwind.

Following the Clear Blue Sky reissue, the band reunited with a new singer, Maxine Marten. In 1996, they issued Cosmic Crusader on Aftermath Records, followed by the discs Mirror of the Stars (2001) and Gateway to the Seventh Dimension (2007). Numbers from the original band’s 1969 live set (“Man of Stone,” “Spooky,” “Taxman,” “Veil of the Vixen”) appear on the 2001 archival CD Out of the Blue (Live & Unreleased).


  • Clear Blue Sky (1970)


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