Heads Hands & Feet were an English rustic-rock band that released three albums between 1971 and 1973. Their first, recorded as a six-piece, appeared as a double-album on Capitol (US) and a single album on Island (UK). They trimmed to five members for the 1972 release Tracks and the following Old Soldiers Never Die, released after their split on Atlantic/Atco.
Five members of the first lineup originally recorded as Poet and the One Man Band. Frontman Tony Colton produced albums by Yes, Taste, and Atomic Rooster and wrote many songs for other artists with guitarist Ray Smith. Their 1971 composition “Country Boy,” co-written by lead guitarist Albert Lee, has become a much-covered pop and country standard.
Members: Tony Colton (vocals), Ray Smith (guitar), Albert Lee (guitar), Pete Gavin (drums), Chas Hodges (bass, violin, vocals), Mike O’Neill (keyboards, 1970-71)
Heads Hands & Feet formed in 1968 as Poet and the One Man Band, a folk-psych septet that included singer Tony Colton, keyboardist Mike O’Neill, drummer Pete Gavin, and guitarists Ray Smith and Albert Lee. All had storied careers dating back to the pre-Beatle era.
Colton (1942–2020), a native of Kent, cut his first single in 1963 on the US Roulette label: “Tell the World” (b/w “Goodbye Cindy Goodbye”). He first played with Smith and O’Neill in Tony Colton and the Crawdaddies, a beat-era regular at London’s Flamingo Club. Their first single (under Colton’s name) was the 1964 Decca release “Lose My Mind” (b/w “So Used To Loving You”), both Colton/Smith compositions produced by Mike Leander (The Rustiks, The Cymerons).
1965–68: Colton and Smith
During 1965, Colton branched into writing and arranging for other artists. Colton/Smith songs were recorded that year by The Merseybeats (“I Stand Accused”) and The Night-Timers (“The Music Played On”). Meanwhile, Tony Colton and The Big Boss Band cut a version of “I Stand Accused,” released on Pye (b/w “Further On Down the Track”). The song was later covered by Elvis Costello on his 1980 release Get Happy! In 1966, Colton released two solo singles on Pye:
- “I’ve Laid Some Down In My Time” / “Run Pony Rider”
- “You’re Wrong There Baby” / “Have You Lost Your Mind“
All four sides are Colton/Smith. Also during 1966, the pair’s songs were recorded by Cream (“The Coffee Song”) and Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band (“Big Time Operator“).
In 1967, Colton and Smith produced Money’s version of their song “Nick Knack.” They also wrote and produced “You’ve Gotta Believe It,” an Atlantic a-side by South African singer Sharon Tandy with backing by Les Fleur De Lys. After Big Roll morphed into Dantalian’s Chariot, they recorded the pair’s “Sun Came Bursting Through My Cloud” as the b-side to the psych classic “The Madman Running Through the Fields.” Colton and Smith also gave two songs (“I Could Feel the Whole World Turn Around,” “Funny ‘Cos Neither Could I”) to Shotgun Express, a short-lived soul-rock combo with a young Rod Stewart (pre-Jeff Beck/Faces) and Peter Bardens (later Camel).
In 1968, Colton issued his final solo single of the period: the Colton/Smith “In the World of Marnie Dreaming” backed with the movie theme “Who Is She?,” recorded for the Hammer Film Production The Vengeance of She, produced by Tony Palmer. They also collaborated with actor-turned-singer Richard Harris on his 1968 ABC/Dunhill a-side “Ballad of a Man Called Horse.”
O’Neill, Lee, Gavin
O’Neill (1938–2013) first recorded with rock ‘n’ rollers Colin Hicks and His Cabin Boys, led by the brother of ’50s teen idol Tommy Steel. They cut multiple 1959/60 singles on Broadway International, including several sides written or co-written by O’Neill (“Hanging Around,” “That Little Girl of Mine”). During the early ’60s, he recorded with the instrumental rock act Nero and the Gladiators. In 1964/65, just as he got involved with Colton and Smith, O’Neill played on sides by the John Barry Seven, The Ivy League, and The 4 Instants.
Lee (b. 1943) first toured at age 16 in the backing bands of Dickie Pride and Duffy Power, two early UK rockers groomed by showbiz mogul Larry Parnes. After playing in the house bands at the Two I’s coffee house in London, he did stints in Neil Christian’s Crusaders and Chris Farlowe‘s Thunderbirds, playing and co-writing the latter’s 1965 Columbia release “Buzz With the Fuzz” (b/w “You’re the One”). Lee also co-wrote Farlowe’s “North South East West,” included on the singer’s 1966 Immediate LP The Art of Chris Farlowe.
Gavin filtered through a slew of beat groups (The Echoes, The Shades, The Shevelles, The Soul Pushers) and was one of 19 musicians to pass through Bluesology alongside Reginald Dwight, Long John Baldry, Marsha Hunt, and Elton Dean.
Poet and the One Man Band completed its seven-man lineup with guitarist Jerry Donahue (ex-Dek & Jerry) and bassist Pat Donaldson (ex-Big Roll/Dantalian’s). They derived the band name from a line in the 1966 hit “Homeward Bound” by Simon & Garfunkel. Poet recorded their debut album in mid-1968 as the members worked simultaneously on other projects.
1969: Poet and the One Man Band
Poet and the One Man Band released their self-titled album in March 1969 on Verve Forecast (UK, Germany). It features nine Colton/Smith originals, including “The Days I Most Remember,” “Light My Fire and Burn My Lamp,” “The Fable,” and “Twilight Zone.”
The band are augmented on select passages by drummer Barry Morgan, clarinetist John Bell, percussionist Speedy Aquaye, pianist Nicky Hopkins, and organists William Davies (cathedral) and Roger Coulam (Hammond). Colton and Smith produced the album with engineer Eddie Offord. Along with 1968 titles by The Idle Race and Brian Auger’s Trinity, this is one of Offord’s earliest credits.
Poet and the One Man Band appeared in a single sleeve with a lunar theme designed by Beverly Parker (Albert King, Count Basie, Peppermint Trolley Co., The Yankee Dollar). Stateside, the album was issued in 1970 on Paramount Records with a different cover (phone booth and hot dog stand) and an altered tracklist that substitutes “Dirty Heavy Weather Road” and “Sackfull O’Grain” for “Jacqueline” and “The Fable.”
Before the album was released, Poet and the One Man Band recorded a followup between October and December 1968. It was completed during free studio off hours with voluntary help from supporting players. Colton proposed a late 1969 release but label politics kept the album vaulted for 27 years.
In 1995, the album appeared as Home From Home (The Missing Album). Despite being recorded with Donaldson and Donahue as a Poet and the One Man Band album, the CD was attributed to Heads Hands & Feat due to the higher market profile of that name. The disc includes 11 Colton/Smith originals, including “How Does It Feel To Be Right All the Time,” “Precious Stone,” and “Who Turned Off the Dark.” Donaldson co-wrote three songs: “Achmed,” “Windy & Warm,” and “Can You See Me.” Select numbers features guest appearances by Aquaye, steel guitarist BJ Cole (Cochise), and backing vocals by the Bond Street Midnight Choir.
1970: Name Change, New Members, Productions
During 1969 and 1970, Colton produced the two albums by Irish power trio Taste. His work with another up-and-coming band, Yes, proved controversial when he insisted they use strings on their second album Time and a Word, a decision that provoked the exit of their guitarist Peter Banks. Meanwhile, Colton produced two tracks (“Friday the Thirteenth,” “Broken Wings”) on the self-titled debut album by Atomic Rooster. He also produced Something, an album of rock and pop covers by Welsh MOR singer Shirley Bassey.
Along with conductor Johnny Harris, Colton and Smith wrote the synthesized soul-pop single “Belfast Boy” (b/w “Echoes of the Cheers”), sung by Don Fardon (ex-The Sorrows) as the theme to the 1970 BBC One special The World of Georgie Best, a documentary about the Irish footballer of Manchester United.
Elsewhere, Lee played on 1969/70 albums by Gerry Temple, Mike D’Abo, and one track (“Marjorine”) on With a Little Help From My Friends, the debut album by Joe Cocker. Sandy Denny invited Lee to join Fotheringay, her breakaway group from Fairport Convention. He declined, but Donahue and Donaldson accepted the invitation, cutting Poet and the One Man Band to a five piece.
Meanwhile, O’Neill played on Donovan‘s 1970 album Open Road. Concurrently, Gavin played on Al Stewart‘s third album, Zero She Flies. Gavin temporarily joined jam-psychsters Jody Grind for their second album, Far Canal.
Poet and the One Man Band reconvened with a new recruit, bassist Chas Hodges (1943–2018), who first recorded in 1961 with rock n’ rollers The Outlaws. That band spawned the mid-’60s singles act The Sessions, which featured a young Ritchie Blackmore. Hodges also did stints in Heinz and the Wild Boys (1965), Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers (1966), and Soul Survival (1967).
Lee worked with Hodges in Black Claw, which cut two singles in 1969 before morphing into Country Fever. They also partook in a 1970 all-star jam session assembled by Deep Purple producer Derek Lawrence. The session, which also featured Matthew Fisher and members of Jodo, resulted in the 1971 MCA release Green Bullfrog.
The new lineup renamed itself Heads Hands & Feet, a name chose by Gavin in reference to their three main assets. After a showcase gig for industry representatives, the band signed with Capitol (US) and Island (UK) with a then-enormous advance of £500k.
In March 1971, Heads Hands & Feet opened for Deep Purple on the Scottish leg of their In Rock tour. On July 3, HHF played a free concert at London’s Hyde Park along with Humble Pie and Grand Funk Railroad. Select members performed with the Johnny Harris Orchestra (the Movements concert) as the opening act for Dionne Warwick at the Royal Albert Hall.
1971: Heads Hands & Feet
Heads Hands & Feet released their debut album in October 1971. Though recorded as a double album, the full contents only appeared in the US, Canada, and Australia on Capitol. Elsewhere (UK, France, Germany, Italy), the album was released as a single LP.
The Capitol double album contains 15 numbers, all Colton/Smith originals, including “Send Me a Wire,” “Look at the World, it’s Changing,” “Green Liquor,” “Devil’s Elbow,” “I Wish You Knew Me,” “Delaware,” and “Tirabad.” The pair got songwriting assistance on select numbers by Lee (“Country Boy,” “Song for Suzie”), Gavin (“Pete Might Spook the Horses”), and Hodges (“Everybody’s Hustlin,’” conjoined on side three with “Hang Me, Dang Me“). The opening track, “I’m In Need of Your Help,” was co-written by Donaldson before his departure. Side four begins with the group-written “The More You Get, the More You Want,” which features a guest appearance by Soft Machine saxophonist Elton Dean.
Select cuts (“I Wish You Knew Me,” “Delaware,” “Little Bit Lonely“) feature backing vocals by Donahue, who also appeared on 1971 albums by Gary Wright, Mick Greenwood, Mick Softley, and the debut solo album by Denny. Another vocalist, Ray Osborne, also sings backup.
Heads Hands & Feet was produced by Colton at Advision Studios with engineer Eddie Offord and assistant Alan Hunter, both of whom worked on Something Else, the second album by the new-look Bassey. Also in 1971, Offord worked on albums by Stone the Crows, Mogul Thrash, Rory Gallagher, Wet Willie, Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, and the National Head Band. Most famously, he oversaw the breakthrough recordings of Emerson Lake & Palmer (Tarkus) and Yes (The Yes Album, Fragile).
Original copies on Capitol and Island are housed in a gatefold sleeve illustrated by David Larkham, also responsible for 1970–71 album art for Elton John, Hookfoot, Phillip Goodhand-Tait, and Gayle McCormick. O’Neill designed the band’s logo. The inner-spread features group and member photographs by Ian Digby-Ovens and Lewis Morley.
“Look at the World, it’s Changing,” one of the songs cut from the Island LP, was lifted by Capitol as a single. Four Seasons frontman Frankie Valli covered the ballad on his 1976 solo album Valli. Capitol also lifted “Tryin’ to Put Me On” as a single. In their stead, Island released a 7″ of two non-album tracks: “Warming Up the Band” and “Silver Mine.”
“Song for Suzie” appears on the 1971 Island comp El Pea, a two-LP set with tracks by Alan Bown, Amazing Blondel, Bronco, Cat Stevens, Free, Incredible String Band, Jethro Tull, Mott The Hoople, Mountain, Nick Drake, Quintessence, Tír na nÓg, and Traffic.
“Pete Might Spook the Horses” appears on Convivencia Sagrada, a 1973 Mexican Capitol comp with cuts by the Edgar Broughton Band, The Masters Apprentices, The Move, Northwind, Quatermass, Tear Gas, and Triangle.
Outside the band, Lee did session work on 1971/72 albums by Steve Gibbons, David Elliott, and Jackson Browne.
Between the first and second album, O’Neill left the band. Heads Hands & Feet reentered Advision in December 1971 to record their second album as a five piece.
Tracks appeared in May 1972 on Island (UK) and Capitol (North America, Europe, New Zealand, Uruguay). It features 10 songs with more varied input from select members. Colton and Smith co-wrote seven numbers, including “Safety In Numbers,” “Harlequin,” and “Paper Chase.” Gavin helped the pair on “Hot Property.” The opening track, “(Let’s Get This) Show On the Road,” is a group-written number. Everyone but Gavin pitched in on “Dancer” and “Jack Daniels (Old No. 7).” Lee lone-wrote three songs: “Roadshow,” “Rhyme and Time,” and “Song and Dance.”
Sessions took place over a three-month period under the guidance of Colton and Offord. The entire band sing backing vocals along with Donahue and Osborne. “Harlequin” features steel guitar by Gerry Hogan, who also played on 1971–73 albums by Bees Make Honey, Fischer & Epstein, and future Fox mastermind Kenny Young. He would later back Oily Rags, the precursor to Hodges’ next act, Chas and Dave.
The choo-choo train cover art was made by the design firm Visualeyes, which also did 1972 album covers for Frankie Miller, Laurie Styvers, Patto, Reebop Kwaku Baah, Ten Years After, Vinegar Joe, and Wild Turkey. In North America, Capitol paired “Hot Property” and “Jack Daniels (Old No.7)” onto a 7″. The label issued different a-sides in Italy (“Roadshow”), Japan (“Safety In Numbers”), and New Zealand (“Rhyme and Time”).
In October 1972, Capitol issued the non-album North American single “Homing in on the Next Trade Wind” (b/w “Hail the Conquering Hero”), both Colton/Smith numbers. Months earlier, Pye (UK) issued “Homing” on a split single with a song called “The Loner” by The Bloomfields.
1973: Old Soldiers Never Die
In the autumn of 1972, Heads Hands & Feet recorded their third album just before disbanding that December over internal tensions. The finished product, Old Soldiers Never Die, appeared post-breakup in April 1973 on Atlantic (UK, Spain, Germany) and ATCO (US, Canada, France, Australia).
The album features five Colton/Smith originals: “Jack of All Trades,” “I Won’t Let You Down,” “Just Another Ambush,” “Stripes,” and “Taking My Music to the Man.” Lee co-wrote “Soft Word Sunday Morning.” Hodges lone-wrote “Another Useless Day.” Two songs, “Meal Ticket” and “One Woman,” are group-compositions.
Colton produced Old Soldiers Never Die, which was engineered by Island’s Richard Digby Smith (Boxer, Dr. Z, Gordon Haskell, McDonald and Giles, Spooky Tooth, Sutherland Brothers) with assistance from Phil Ault, who also worked on 1973/74 albums by Hanson, Bob Marley, String Driven Thing, Free (Heartbreaker), Camel (Mirage), and the live collaboration June 1, 1974 by Kevin Ayers, John Cale, Brian Eno, and Nico.
The album lists 10 additional backing vocalists, including Donahue, Linda Lewis, Norma Winstone, Jackie Lynton (Savoy Brown), and Fairport’s Dave Swarbrick. “Just Another Ambush” features brass arrangements by Derek Wadsworth, who did likewise for Dusty Springfield (Dusty … Definitely), Manfred Mann Chapter Three, Alex Harvey, and the Keef Hartley Band. Old Soldiers Never Die features orchestration by conductor Johnny Harris (Petula Clark, Cilla Black), who also worked with Colton on the Bassey and Richard Harris recordings.
Artist Ian Stead designed the cover to Old Soldiers Never Die, which shows O’Neill’s logo as a globe-holding medallion above sergeant stripes. The inner-spread, credited to Visualeyes, is a collage of member, group, and live pics.
Atlantic issued two UK/US singles from Old Soldiers Never Die: “Just Another Ambush” (b/w “I Won’t Let You Down”) and “One Woman,” backed with the seven-minute Poet and the One Man Band track “Dirty Heavy Weather Road,” originally found only on US Paramount copies of the earlier group’s album.
“One Woman” appears on Heavies for April From Atlantic, ATCO & RSO, a 1973 US comp with tracks by Led Zeppelin, Chick Corea, the Spinners, and the New Cactus Band.
After Heads Hands & Feet
In January 1973, all five members of the final lineup played on the Jerry Lee Lewis double-album The Session…Recorded in London with Great Artists, cut during a four-day string of jams that also feature Alvin Lee, Rory Gallagher, and members of Spooky Tooth, Badger, Faces, and Ashton Gardner & Dyke.
In 1974, Colton produced Sunset Towers, the second solo album by Don Everly of the Everly Brothers. The album features instrumentation by Gavin, Smith, and Albert Lee, plus covers of the Heads Hands & Feet songs “Jack Daniels Old No. 7” and “Warmin’ Up the Band.”
Colton resurfaced as a producer on a 1977 funk single by South African Otis Waygood. Between 1981 and 1985, he produced sides for Central Line, Eric Blake, BIM, and Roots Radics.
Lee and Hodges played on the 1973 album Images by the Japanese folk duo Bread & Butter. Lee also played on 1973–75 albums by the UK singer-songwriters Carolanne Pegg, Jaki Whitren, Alan Hull, Les Walker (ex-Warm Dust), and the US jazz men Herbie Mann and Eddie Harris. After playing on numerous American country albums, he debuted as a solo artist with the 1979 A&M release Hiding, which contains a sped-up remake of “Country Boy,” his co-write on Heads Hands & Feet.
Smith continued as a co-writer. In 1982, Leo Sayer recorded his “Rumours” (co-written with Mark Alan) on the Chrysalis release World Radio, the singer’s ninth album.
Gavin joined Vinegar Joe for their 1973 third album Six Star General. He also played on albums by Teresa Brewer, Steve York, Isaac Guillory (Pacific Eardrum), and Oliver Nelson.
Hodges played on mid-’70s albums by Big Jim Sullivan and Labi Siffre. In 1974, he reteamed with his old Black Claw mate Dave Peacock in Oily Rags, which cut one album then performed and recorded as Chas & Dave. They also cut a 1976 album as Sioux with guitarist Dave Palmer (Bliss Band).
In 1984, Ricky Scaggs scored a US #1 country hit with a cover of “Country Boy.” This prompted Colton to move to Nashville, where the first Heads Hands & Feet album remained popular among the local musicians.
Poet & the One Man Band albums:
- Poet and the One Man Band (1969)
- Home From Home (The Missing Album) (1995, recorded 1968)
- Heads Hands & Feet (2LP, 1971)
- Tracks (1972)
- Old Soldiers Never Die (1973)
- 1971: “Warming Up the Band” / “Silver Mine” (non-album)
- 1972: “Homing In On The Next Trade Wind” / “Hail the Conquering Hero” (non-album)
- 1973: “One Woman” (Old Soldiers Never Die) / “Dirty Heavy Weather Road” (Poet and the One Man Band, US version)
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