Gypsy

Gypsy was an English folk-rock band that released the 1971–72 albums Gypsy and Brenda & the Rattlesnake on United Artists. They evolved from the Leicester pop-psych combo Legay, which cut the 1968 Fontana single “No-one” (b/w “The Fantastic Story of the Stream-Driven Banana”).

Members: John Knapp (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Robin Pizer (guitar, vocals), Rod Read (guitar, vocals), David McCarthy (bass, vocals), David “Moth” Smith (drums), Ray Martinez (guitar, vocals)

For the namesake American psychedelic rock band, click here.


Background

The band originated in 1965 as Legay, a Leicester R&B–beat combo that performed Tamla–Motown covers on the Midlands club circuit. They featured guitarist–singer Robin Pizer, bassist Dave McCarthy, and guitarists John Knapp and Rod Read. Their namesake, drummer Legay Rogers, left early for health reasons.

In 1967, Legay briefly employed Rob Townsend (en route to Family). The Townsend lineup recorded songs by Pizer (“You’re On My Mind”) and Read (“Impartial Judge”).

Legay hired drummer David “Moth” Smith in time for their February 1968 Fontana single “No-one,” an intense fuzztone psych rocker backed with “The Fantastic Story of the Stream-Driven Banana,” a jaunty harmony pop song.

A. “No-one”
B. “The Fantastic Story of the Steam Driven Banana”

Pizer wrote both songs and the vaulted “High Flying Around,” one of four tracks (along with Read’s “Minstrel Boy” and the two Townsend-era tracks) on a 2015 Legay archival EP on Circle Records.

Legay renamed itself Gypsy Moth (after Smith’s nickname). At the behest of manager Peter Swales, they shortened the name to Gypsy.


Rock Festivals

Gypsy featured three guitarists: Pizer, Read, and keyboardist Knapp, who doubled on 12-string. They developed a live repertoire of originals inspired by American West Coast folk and acid rock.

In August 1969, Gypsy played at the second annual Isle of Wight Festival, a three-day weekend event at Woodside Bay with sets Battered Ornaments, Blonde on Blonde, Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band, Eclection, Gary Farr, Heaven, Marsupilami, The Nice, Pentangle, and the Third Ear Band. Gypsy played on Day Two (Saturday the 30th) along with the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, Blodwyn Pig, Edgar Broughton Band, Family, Fat Mattress, Joe Cocker, Marsha Hunt, The Moody Blues, The Pretty Things, and The Who.

In May 1970, Gypsy played the Camden Festival, a three-day weekend event at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm with sets by It’s a Beautiful Day, Keef Hartley Band, and Renaissance. Gypsy played on Saturday (5/2) as a third-billed act (with Egg) behind Taste and Family.>


Gypsy

Gypsy released their self-titled debut album in May 1971 on United Artists. It features three songs each by John Knapp (“Pony Ride,” “Please Don’t Stay,” “Standing Alone, Feel So Bad”) and David McCarthy (“Turning Wheel,” “Feel About the Country Fine,” “I Don’t Care, Do You Mind?”) and two songs per side by Robin Pizer (“Keep On Trying,” “I Want to Be Beside You,” “Let Me Take You Home,” “What Makes a Man a Man?”).

1. “What Makes a Man a Man?” (3:05)
2. “Keep On Trying” (4:31)
3. “I Don’t Care, Do You Mind?” (3:24)
4. “Turning Wheel” (8:00)
5. “Feel About the Country Fine” (2:30)
6. “Standing Alone, Feel So Bad” (5:55)
7. “I Want to Be Beside You” (5:30)
8. “Please Don’t Stay” (5:15)
9. “Let Me Take You Home” (4:50)
10. “Pony Ride” (4:50)

Gypsy self-produced the album at Olympic Sound Studios, Barnes, with engineer Keith Harwood, a soundman on 1970–71 albums by Family, Fuzzy Duck, Gravy Train, and ex-Action singer Reg King. Additional sessions took place at Island Studios with engineer Frank Owen, who worked on concurrent titles by Affinity, If, and Caetano Veloso.

Gypsy appeared in a gatefold designed by Grahame Berney and Keith Davis, whose visuals also appear on 1971 covers to albums by Keith Christmas, Mainhorse, Stray, Stud, Steeleye Span, Shelagh McDonald, and Whalefeathers. The front cover shows Gypsy alfresco in hippie regalia, as captured by rock photo-journalist Keith Morris, whose images appear on contemporary titles by Aubrey Small, Jan Dukes de Grey, Led Zeppelin, Mighty Baby, Nick Drake, and Van Der Graaf Generator. The Gypsy inner-sleeve collage mixes pics from Morris’s shoot with assorted live shots.

Gypsy lifted “What Makes a Man a Man” as a single, backed with “I Want to Be Beside You.”

“Let Me Take You Home” appears on the double-album All Good Clean Fun, a 1971 UA comp with cuts by Eric Burdon & WAR (“Spill The Wine”), If (“Here Comes Mr. Time”), Man (“Daughter of the Fireplace”), Cochise (“Home Again”), Groundhogs (“Cherry Red”), Sugarloaf (“Hot Water”), Hawkwind (“Be Yourself”), and Amon Duul II (“Race From Here To Your Ears”).


“Changes Coming”

In August 1971, Gypsy released the standalone single “Changes Coming,” a Pizer original backed with Knapp’s “Don’t Cry On Me.”

A. “Changes Coming”
B. “Don’t Cry On Me”

Gypsy mimed “Changes Coming” on the August 26 broadcast of the BBC music program Top of the Pops,> which also showed in-studio appearances by Curved Air (“Back Street Luv”), The Peddlers (“Have You Ever Been to Georgia”), and a repeat performance by Family (“In My Own Time”).

Before sessions commenced on a new album, Rod Read cleared out for guitarist Ray Martinez of Leicester symphonic-rockers Spring.


Brenda & the Rattlesnake

Gypsy released their second album, Brenda & the Rattlesnake, in 1972 on United Artists. Robin Pizer wrote everything apart from one bassist Dave McCarthy track (“Comes a Time”) and three John Knapp submissions (“Brand New Car,” “Without You,” “Shame”). Drummer Moth Smith conceived the album title as a stripper reference.

Rattlesnake retained the three-guitar lineup with Pizer, Knapp, and newcomer Ray Martinez.

A1. “Brand New Car”
A2. “Midnight Fighter”
A3. “Who’s Cheating”
A4. “Without You”
A5. “Change Your Mind”
B1. “Shame”
B2. “Let’s Roll”
B3. “You Know Better Than Me”
B4. “Universe”
B5. “Comes a Time”

Sessions took place at Rockfield Studios, an newly opened state-of-the-art facility in Monmouth, Wales, where Martinez recorded the prior year’s Spring. John Anthony produced Brenda & the Rattlesnake in sequence with 1972 albums by Al Stewart (Orange) and Home (self-titled) and singles by Genesis (“Happy the Man”) and VDGG (“Theme One”). Spring keyboardist at Morahan co-engineered Rattlesnake with Ralph Downs, who worked on concurrent titles by Brinsley Schwarz, Foghat, Frankie Miller, and Help Yourself.

Rattlesnake features auxiliary percussionist Ray Cooper, a sessionist on 1971–72 albums by America, Brian Short, Carly Simon, Elton John, Harry Nilsson, John Kongos, Lesley Duncan, Linda Lewis, Mike D’Abo, Phillip Goodhant-Tait, and Tony Hazzard. The album also features horn arrangements by Chris Hughes (Affinity, Joan Armatrading) and strings conducted by Richard Hewson, an arranger on recent recordings by Claire Hamill, Clifford T Ward, Colin Scot, and Jigsaw

UA visual artist Jeff Powell designed the cover, which shows a yellow-saturated field photo of Gypsy in brown snakeskin framework.

In November 1972, Gypsy lifted “Brand New Car” as a single (b/w “You Know Better Than Me”). “Let’s Roll” followed in May 1973 (b/w “Without You”).


Post-Gypsy

Gypsy re-teamed with John Anthony for a third studio album that went unreleased. They perform “Brand New Car” in the 1974 British crime film Dead Cert, filmed just before their breakup.

Pizer made a brief appearance in Liverpool hard-rockers Nutz. Moth and Knapp reteamed in hard-rockers Flicks, which released the 1979 album Go For the Effect on Ariola.


Discography:

  • Gypsy (1971)
  • Brenda & the Rattlesnake (1972)

Sources:

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