Doctors of Madness

The Doctors of Madness were an English post-psych, proto-punk band that released three albums on Polydor: Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms, Figments of Emancipation (both 1976), and Sons of Survival (1978).

Historically, the Doctors are a missing link between the avant-garde fringe of symphonic/space-rock (Van der Graaf Generator, Curved Air, Hawkwind), the theatrical side of glam/art-rock (Roxy Music, Eno, Be-Bop Deluxe), and the lavish/luminous angle of new wave (Ultravox, Japan, Magazine, Tubeway Army).

Members: Kid Strange [Richard Harding] (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Eddie Macaro (guitar), Martin Martin (keyboards), Urban Blitz [Geoffrey Hickman] (guitar, violin), Peter Di Lemma [Peter Hewes] (drums), Stoner [Colin Bentley] (bass)

The Doctors of Madness were formed in Brixton, South London, in 1974 by singer, lyricist, and guitarist Richard Harding (b. 1951), who wished to pair the avant-garde side of the Velvet Underground (“Black Angel’s Death Song,” “European Son”) with vignettes reminiscent of William S. Burroughs. Adopting the stagemame Richard Strange (aka Kid Strange), he enlisted bassist Colin Bentley, drummer Pete Hewes, and violinist Geoff Hickman, respectively known as Stoner, Peter Di Lemma, and Urban Blitz.

A classically trained musician, Blitz cited Jean-Luc Ponty, Don “Sugarcane” Harris, and John Cale as the primary influences on his violin playing. In the early 1970s, he customized a “skeleton” violin, a now much-copied design. Prior to the Doctors, he traveled to Italy, where he met singer Jenny Sorrenti (sister of composer Alan Sorrenti). He helped her assemble the folk-classical combo Saint Just, but returned to England before they recorded their first album.

In March 1975, the Doctors of Madness were spotted at a club in Twickenham by a talent scout for music mogul Bryan Morrison, who’d managed a slew of successful acts (Pink Floyd, Fairport Convention, Incredible String Band, The Pretty Things, Pink Fairies, T. Rex). He took on the Doctors in partnership with Justin de Villeneuve, ex-husband and hairdresser of model-turned-actress/singer Twiggy.

Through Villeneuve’s contacts, the Doctors made their BBC television debut on The Twiggy Show in late 1975. On New Year’s Eve, they opened the three-day Great British Music Festival 1976, which also featured sets by Budgie, Status Quo, Thin Lizzy, Baker Gurvitz Army, John Miles, Snafu, Procol Harum, Nazareth, Barclay James Harvest, Charlie, and eventual benefactors Be-Bop Deluxe.

The Doctors developed a theatrical, strobe-laden stage act, marked by Strange’s blue hair and Stoner’s skeletal makeup. Their antics caught the attention of Polydor Records, which signed them for the UK and Europe.



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