England

England was an English symphonic-rock band that released the coveted 1977 Arista album Garden Shed. Demos from the era surfaced on the archival disc The Last of the Jubblies.

Members: Robert Webb (keyboards, vocals), Frank Holland (guitar, vocals), Martin Henderson (bass, vocals), Jode Leich (percussion, bass, vocals), Jeff Leigh (drums, percussion, vocals), Jaffa (bass guitar), Steve Laffy (drums, percussion), Maggie Alexander (vocals), Alec Johnson (guitar, vocals)

For the namesake trio that recorded a self-titled album in 1976, click here.


Background

England formed in 1975 when guitarist Jamie Moses and keyboardist Robert Webb teamed with bassist Martin Henderson and drummer Mark Ibbotson. Moses cut an unreleased album in a prior band with Webb, an alumnus of CBS glitter-popsters Merlin.

Ibbotson owned a rare 1964-model Mk II Mellotron (160 units made), an electrical-mechanical keyboard used on early recordings by Manfred Mann (“Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James”), the Moody Blues (Days of Future Passed), and Genesis (“Watcher of the Skies”). For portability, Webb sawed the Mellotron in half with the right-hand tapes stored in a second case with the left-hand manual.

England played multiple shows at the Hazlitt Arts Centre on Earl Street in Maidstone, Kent. Moses cleared for guitarist Frank Holland. In March 1976, Arista signed England. Ibbotson made way for drummer Jode Leich, who cut a 1975 Buk Records one-off with the Spontaneous Combustion spin-off Time.

During the second half of 1976, England rehearsed ninety minutes of original material and designated six numbers for a proper album. On February 25, 1977, Arista released England’s first single: “Paraffinalea” backed with “Nanagram,” both self-produced group compositions.


Garden Shed

England released the singular album, Garden Shed, in 1977 on Arista. It features six numbers joint-credited to keyboardist Robert Webb, bassist Martin Henderson, drummer Jode Leigh, and guitarist Frank Holland (spelled Franc in the credits).

Side One contains the piano-vocal etude “All Alone” and the epics “Midnight Madness” and “Three Piece Suite.” The pre-released a-side “Paraffinalea” opens Side Two, which houses the frosty Mellotron ballad “Yellow” (with Leigh on bass) and the multi-movement opus “Poisoned Youth.”

Musically, Garden Shed fuses elements of Genesis (lush keyboards, ‘ghostly’ guitar lines), Yes (crisp bass), and Supertramp (cabaret piano). England joint-harmonize multiple passages in high registers that echo the tones of Jon Anderson and Roger Hodgson.

1. “Midnight Madness” (7:04)
2. “All Alone” (1:52)
3. “Three Piece Suite” (13:14)

4. “Paraffinalea” (4:17)
5. “Yellow” (5:33)
6. “Poisoned Youth” (16:26)

England self-produced Garden Shed in the winter of 1976–77 with engineer Robin Freeman, a soundman on earlier albums by The Movies, Slack Alice, and Strawbs (Ghosts) who worked on concurrent titles by the Dutch artists Flyin’ Spiderz, Golden Earring (Contraband), Gruppo Sportivo, Houseband, Partner, and ex-Drama guitarist Frank van der Kloot.

England envisioned an elaborate cover to Garden Shed with an illustration for each song. However, the album appeared in a single sleeve by airbrush artist Mike Cosford, who illustrated the cover to the 1975 RSO release Peter and the Wolf, an all-star jazz-rock interpretation of Prokofiev’s 1936 children’s fairy tale. Cosford’s Garden Shed illustration depicts a red-framed, yellow-lettered nameplate in a tomato wreath. Above the plague (top center) is a coat of arms that depicts a prince and princess with a slain gargoyle.


The Last of the Jubblies

In 1997, archivists Vinyl Tap Records issued Last of the Jubblies, which gathers five 1976–77 England demos and the “Paraffinalea” b-side “Nanagram.”

1. “Creepin Instrumental” (6:44)
2. “A One-Legged Day Tale” (9:01)
3. “Sausage Pie” (5:17)
4. “Tooting Bec Rape Case” (8:49)
5. “Mister Meener” (3:45)
6. “Nanogram” (4:14)


Discography:

  • Garden Shed (1977)
  • The Last of the Jubblies (1990 — recorded 1976/77)

Sources:

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