Henry Cow

Henry Cow was an English avant-garde rock and free-jazz band that released four studio albums between 1973 and 1975 on Virgin: Legend, Unrest, Desperate Straights, and In Praise of Learning, the last two in partnership with the cabaret-pop trio Slapp Happy.

In 1978, Henry Cow recorded the albums Western Culture and Hopes and Fears — the latter attributed to the spinoff trio Art Bears, which produced two further albums. That spring, they assembled the first Rock In Opposition (RIO) festival with like-minded Continental acts.

Guitarist Fred Frith and bassoonist Lindsay Cooper launched prolific solo careers. Keyboardist Tim Hodgkinson formed the post-punk band The Work. Drummer Chris Cutler launched ReR Megacorp, an international network of labels devoted to RIO acts.

Members: Fred Frith (guitar, violin, bass, piano, xylophone), Tim Hodgkinson (keyboards, woodwinds), David Attwooll (drums, 1968), Rob Brooks (rhythm guitar, 1968), Joss Grahame (bass, 1968), Andy Spooner (harmonica, 1968), Andrew Powell (bass, drums, 1968-69), John Greaves (bass, piano, vocals, 1969-76), Sean Jenkins (drums, 1969-71), Martin Ditcham (drums, 1971), Chris Cutler (drums, percussion, 1971-78), Geoff Leigh (saxophone, flute, 1972-73), Lindsay Cooper (oboe, bassoon, recorder, piano, 1973-78), Dagmar Krause (vocals, 1975-77), Georgie Born (bass, cello, 1976-78), Annemarie Roelofs (trombone, violin, 1978)


Henry Cow formed as a duo in May 1968 when guitarist–violinist Fred Frith met reedist–organist Tim Hodgkinson at Cambridge University. They initially purveyed free-form blues-rock and performed select summer college events, including an Architects’ Ball headed by Pink Floyd at Homerton College. Despite Hodgkinson’s later claim that “Henry Cow” was chosen at whim for its silliness, the name is assumed to be a modification of American composer Henry Cowell.

In October 1968, the pair welcomed then-bassist Andrew Powell and drummer David Attwooll. After two months on the college live circuit, Attwooll left music and entered publishing at Oxford University Press.

Henry Cow spent the first quarter of 1969 performing as a trio. Concurrently, Powell partook in an electronic music combo, Intermodulation, with Roger Smalley and Tim Souster. Smalley, the Composer in Residence at King’s College, exposed Cow to avant-garde music and methods of composition. This prompted the band to write pieces that challenged their playing abilities.

Powell left Henry Cow in April 1969. He eventually became a conductor and arranger, adding orchestration to albums by Cliff Richard, Kate Bush, Chris de Burgh, The Alan Parsons Project, and numerous Parsons-produced acts (Cockney Rebel, John Miles, Pilot, Al Stewart, Ambrosia).

Henry Cow continued as a duo until October 1969 when they added bassist John Greaves, then attending Pembroke College, Cambridge. A sequence of drummers preceded the eight-month stint of Sean Jenkins, formerly of Welsh psych-rockers The Elastic Band. In the summer of 1971, the drum seat was briefly filled by Martin Ditcham, who performed with Cow at the second Glastonbury Festival: a June event with sets by Quintessence, Stackridge, Amazing Blondel, Roy Harper, Fairport Convention, Help Yourself, Quiver, Terry Reid, Gong, Traffic, Hawkwind, Pink Fairies, Arthur Brown, Family, and David Bowie.

In July 1971, Ditcham left Henry Cow. He later became a prolific sessionist with credits on eighties albums by Eye to Eye, The Belle Stars, Marc Almond, Nik Kershaw, Sade, Chas Jankel, Masayoshi Takanaka, Working Week, China Crisis, and Everything But the Girl.

Two months later, Henry Cow found a permanent drummer through a Melody Maker ad placed by Chris Cutler, who recently co-assembled the Ottawa Music Company: a rock composer’s orchestra formed in partnership with Egg keyboardist Dave Stewart. Several years beforehand, Cutler played in psych-rockers Louise with a pre-Fuchsia Tony Durant.

In February 1972, Henry Cow recorded their first of two sessions that year for DJ John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show. That spring, reedist Geoff Leigh expanded Cow to a quintet. He arrived just as the band got commissioned to score a local production of Euripides’ The Bacchae. They performed several summer events in Edinburgh and London with mime artist Ray Smith, who later did the sock art on Cow’s first three albums.

In October 1972, Henry Cow held a series of concert events dubbed Cabaret Voltaire (with Kevin Ayers at Kensington Town Hall) and Explorers’ Club (London School of Economics). These shows attracted some of the UK’s reigning avant-garde figures, including poet Ivor Cutler, painter Lady June, composer Ron Geesin, and free-jazz musicians Lol Coxhill and Derek Bailey. The ensuing press attention and a third Peel broadcast (4/24/73) netted the band a contract in May 1973 with the newly formed Virgin Records.

The Henry Cow Legend

Henry Cow released their debut album, The Henry Cow Legend (alternately known as simply Legend or Leg End), on August 31, 1973, on Virgin.

Legend contains two compositions by keyboardist–reedist Tim Hodgkinson: “Amygdala” and the closing chamber-rock epic “Nine Funerals of the Citizen King,” which features unison vocals by all five members. Guitarist–violist Fred Frith composed the opening track “Nirvana for Mice,” a convoluted instrumental capped with the line “Sweet mystery of life I will remember.” The remaining tracks are wordless.

Side Two contains the group-credited number “The Tenth Chaffinch” and a short extract of “With the Yellow Half-Moon and Blue Star,” a dance-commissioned piece by Frith, whose composition “Teenbeat” permuted with contributions by bassist John Greaves and a group-credited variation titled “Teenbeat Introduction” (Frith takes sole credit for “Teenbeat Reprise”).

Geoff Leigh plays recorder and shares saxophone and clarinet credits with Hodgkinson, who plays Farfisa organ and co-handles piano with Frith, Greaves, and drummer-whistler Chris Cutler.

1. “Nirvana for Mice” (4:53)
2. “Amygdala” (6:47)
3. “Teenbeat Introduction” (4:32)
4. “Teenbeat” (6:57) features vocalise by studio staffer Maggie Thomas and the personal partners of Geoff (Cathy Williams) and John (Sarah Greaves).

5. “Extract from ‘With the Yellow Half-Moon and Blue Star’” (3:37) features pixiphone by Jeremy Baines, who subsequent guested (with Leigh) on the self-titled Virgin release by Hatfield & The North. Frith culled Extract from his composition “With the Yellow Half-Moon and Blue Star,” a sixteen-minute piece commissioned by the Cambridge Contemporary Dance Group. He titled the piece after Avec la Demi-lune Jaune et Y, a 1918 cubist painting by Swiss–German expressionist Paul Klee.
6. “Teenbeat Reprise” (5:07)
7. “The Tenth Chaffinch” (6:06)
8. “Nine Funerals of the Citizen King” (5:34) quotes lines by French theorist Guy Debord (“Down beneath the spectacle of free,” from Debord’s 1967 Situationist text The Society of the Spectacle), American poet Gertrude Stein (“Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,” from her 1913 poem “Sacred Emily”), and English Victorian novelist Lewis Carroll (“That the Snark was a Boojum all can tell,” from Carroll’s 1876 nonsense poem “The Hunting of the Snark”).

Henry Cow self-produced Legend in the spring of 1973 in two installments (May 12–17 and June 10–14) at The Manor, a mansion facility in Shipton-on-Cherwell, Oxfordshire, owned by Virgin co-founder Richard Branson. Musician and soundman Tom Newman (once of the psychedelic Jade Warrior precursor July) co-constructed the studio installation and co-produced the winter 1973 Manor recording Tubular Bells, the inaugural Virgin Records release, composed and arranged by nineteen-year-old classical-rock musician Mike Oldfield, who employed Frith, Greaves, Leigh, and Hodgkinson for his 49-minute ensemble piece. Newman engineered Legend in sequence with Oldfield’s debut and 1973 titles by Leo Sayer (Silverbird), Colin Scot, and Virgin labelmate Kevin Coyne. Oldfield engineered the first section of “Nirvana for Mice.”

Ray Smith, a mime artist and text reader at recent Henry Cow concert events, designed the woven-sock Legend cover: an image repurposed for their two subsequent albums.

Legend was the fifth Virgin LP release (V2005) after Tubular Bells (V2001) and albums by Gong (Flying Teapot (Radio Gnome Invisible Part 1)), Steve York’s Camelo Pardalis (Manor Live), and the German Krautrock band Faust (Faust IV).

In 1991, Hodgkinson remixed Legend for its CD reissue on the American label East Side Digital. This version contains overdubbed bassoon on “Amygdala” by subsequent Henry Cow member Lindsay Cooper. The full sixteen-minute version of “With the Yellow Half-Moon and Blue Star” appears on The 40th Anniversary Henry Cow Box Set, a nine-CD set released in 2009 on Cutler’s RēR Megacorp.

Legend and other early Virgin titles received US distribution on Atlantic Records, which included “Nirvana for Mice” Atlantic April LP Sampler, a 1974 label comp with cuts by Ace Spectrum (“Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”), The Art Ensemble of Chicago (“What’s to Say”), Billy Cobham (“Crosswind”), Buzzy Linhart (“The Greatest Person I Know”), Charles Mingus (“Canon”), King Crimson (“The Great Deceiver”), The Modern Jazz Quartet (“Regret?”), Passport (“Tarantula”), Ross (“Alright By Me”), Roxy Music (“Street Life”), and Yusef Lateef (“In the Still of the Night”).

Greasy Truckers Live at Dingwalls Dance Hall

Henry Cow appear on Greasy Truckers Live at Dingwalls Dance Hall, a multi-act double-album distributed in late 1973 by Island Records.

Live at Dingwalls Dance Hall documents the second of two concert events organized by Greasy Truckers, a loose cooperative that held the London-area concerts to raise funds to build a hostel in Notting Hill Gate. The first album, Greasy Truckers Party, appeared in 1972 on United Artists with sets by Man, Brinsley Schwarz, and Hawkwind. Live at Dingwalls Dance Hall features Camel (Side One), Gong (Side Four), and an unsigned communal act called the Global Village Trucking Company (Side Three).

Henry Cow occupy Side Two (21:30) with improvised pieces credited to Hodgkinson (“Off the Map”), Frith (“Cafe Royal”), Frith–Greaves (“Keeping Warm in Winter”), and the entire band (“Sweet Heart of Mine”).

Despite the album’s name, only the sets of Camel and Global Village are from the October 8, 1973, concert at Dingwalls Dance Hall at Camden Lock, where delays and time constaints restricted Henry Cow’s set to ten minutes before the 2am curfew. Cow recorded their set “live” at The Manor on November 4. (Gong’s two pieces come from shows in Tunisia and Sheffield.)

B1. “Off the Map” i. Solo Piano ii. Trio (Hodgkinson, Cutler, Frith)
B2. “Cafe Royal
B3a. “Keeping Warm in Winter
B3b. “Sweet Heart of Mine

Greasy Truckers Live at Dingwalls Dance Hall is housed in a gatefold with Art Deco typeface and an inner-gate collage that gives prominence to Frith (lower left). The outer-gates depict a fifties couple (left) and a seventies couple (right) in a mirror-tiled bar with a floozie (counter) and a thirties-style bartender. The design and illustration is co-credited to Holly Hollington and Union Pacific’s Kevin Sparrow, who later designed The Stranglers‘ red logo.

Live at Dingwalls Dance Hall marked Henry Cow’s final moments with Geoff Leigh, who subsequently formed Red Balune with Cathy Williams. Henry Cow hired bassoonist–oboist Lindsay Cooper, a Royal Academy of Music alumna who did a between-albums stint in freak folksters Comus.


Henry Cow released their second album, Unrest, on May 27, 1974, on Virgin. This is their first album with bassoonist–oboist Lindsay Cooper, who (like Leigh) plays recorder.

Side One features epic compositions by bassist John Greaves (“Half Asleep; Half Awake”) and guitarist-violinist Fred Frith (“Ruins”). Frith opens Unrest with “Bittern Storm over Ulm,” an alteration of the 1965 Yardbirds b-side “Got to Hurry.” Side Two is studio-improvised material with tape loops and overdubs.

Frith plays xylophone and co-plays piano with Greaves and saxist–clarinetist Tim Hodgkinson, who again uses Farfisa organ. Two tracks (“Ruins,” “Linguaphonie”) feature woodwinds and percussion played at half- and double-speed.

1. “Bittern Storm over Ulm” (2:44) derives from “Got to Hurry,” the b-side to the March 1965 Yardbirds single “For Your Love.” Henry Cow performed this under the altered titles “Heron Shower over Hamburg” and “Brain Storm over Barnsley.”
2. “Half Asleep; Half Awake” (7:39)
3. “Ruins” (12:00) Frith based the beat and harmony measures on the Fibonacci sequence, a method used earlier by Hungarian composer Béla Bartók. (The Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers where each new number is the sum of the two preceding numbers: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233).

4. “Solemn Music” (1:09) is a snippet of Firth’s music for a London production of the William Shakespeare play The Tempest.
5. “Linguaphonie” (5:58)
6. “Upon Entering the Hotel Adlon” (2:56) is a titular ode to Berlin’s Hotel Adlon, a congregation place for German high society at the start of the Third Reich.
7. “Arcades” (1:50)
8. “Deluge” (5:52) is an extract from the 1972 Greaves composition “Don’t Disturb Me,” an early Henry Cow setlist piece.

Henry Cow self-produced Unrest in late February (14–28) and early spring (March 23–April 2) of 1974 at The Manor, where Virgin staffer Phil Becque co-engineered the album with Andy Morris, a soundman on recent albums by Hawkwind and Matthew Fisher (Journey’s End). Mike Oldfield engineered part of “Ruins” and employed Lindsay on the spring 1974 Manor sessions for his second album Hergest Ridge. (Confusingly, a Scottish male bassist also named Lindsay Cooper plays on Tubular Bells.)

Unrest is housed in a gatefold sleeve with an off-black variation of the Legend sock-art by Ray Smith, who photographed the blurred, saturated group image on the inner-gate. The back cover has an illustration of cross-chains interlaced with red ribbons woven to spell “Henry Cow.”

Henry Cow dedicated Unrest to ex-Soft MachineMachine Mole drummer Robert Wyatt and Guru GuruNEU! bassist Uli Trepte. The now-paralyzed Wyatt signed to Virgin for his second solo album, the July 1974 release Rock Bottom, which features Frith’s viola in the closing track “Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road.”

In 1991, East Side Digital reissued Unrest with two session outtakes: “The Glove” and “Torchfire.”

9. “The Glove” (6:35)
10. “Torchfire” (4:48)

Henry Cow embarked on a May 1974 UK–European tour with Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band. After the tour, they trimmed temporarily to a quartet (sans Cooper) for a series of pre-booked shows in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Frith debuted as a solo artist with Guitar Solos, a collection of unaccompanied improv pieces on Virgin-subsidiary Caroline Records. 

Slapp Happy Merger

In November 1974, Henry Cow served as the studio backing band for Slapp Happy, a multi-national trio comprised of English composer Anthony Moore, American folkie Peter Blegvad, and German cabaret–rock singer Dagmar Krause.

Slapp Happy formed in 1972 in Hamburg, where Moore recorded two avant-garde albums at the Bremen studio of eventual Virgin signees Faust. When Polydor rejected his third album, he summoned Blegvad to make an album of pop-folk material. In need of a charismatic vocalist, Moore invited his personal partner Dagmar, who co-sang with (future Frumpy) frontwoman Inga Rumpf in the sixties German folk-pop band The City Preachers. In 1970, Dagmar and Inga each led a side of the Hör Zu Black Label release I.D. Company. The newly formed trio cut the 1972 Polydor release Sort Of and recorded a second, more complex set of material with Faust as their backing band. Polydor rejected the album, tentatively called Casablanca Moon.

In 1973, Slapp Happy relocated to England, where members of Henry Cow heard a tape of Casablanca Moon and recommended the trio to Virgin, which signed them at the added encouragement of fellow signee Robert Wyatt. However, Virgin urged Slapp Happy to re-record their second album with Manor studio musicians conducted by violinist Graham Preskett with new arrangements by Comus guitarist Roger Wootton. The re-recorded album appeared as Slapp Happy in May 1974 on Virgin. (In 1980, Chris Cutler’s RēR Megacorp released the original Faust-backed recording as Acnalbasac Noom — the words Casablanca Moon spelled backwards.)

When Virgin requested a single by Slapp Happy, the trio delivered the songs “Europa” and “War (Is Energy Enslaved),” which the label deemed as album-oriented material. Now that their new material surpassed their performance capabilities as a trio, Slapp Happy asked Henry Cow for backup on their third album. The project evolved into a merged-entity release.

Desperate Straights

Henry Cow and Slapp Happy released their first of two collaborative albums, Desperate Straights, on February 21, 1975, on Virgin. The thirteen-song disc contains ten songs written by the Slapp Happy camp: two by guitarist–singer Peter Blegvad (“Riding Tigers,” “Strayed”), three by pianist Anthony Moore (“The Owl,” “Desperate Straights,” “Apes in Capes”), and four Blegvad–Moore compositions (“Some Questions About Hats,” “A Worm Is at Work,” “Europa,” “Giants”), plus one song (“In the Sickbay”) that Blegvad co-wrote with singer Dagmar Krause, who makes a rare instrumental contribution on Wurlitzer piano.

Side One contains “Bad Alchemy,” the first co-write between Blegvad and Henry Cow bassist John Greaves; the two bonded musically during the project. Moore wrote the closing track “Caucasian Lullaby” with Cow drummer Christ Cutler. Side Two also contains “Excerpt from The Messiah,” Blegvad’s arrangement of the 1742 oratorio by German–British Baroque composer George Frideric Handel.

Virgin billed Desperate Straights as a Slapp Happy / Henry Cow release to emphasize the trio’s influence on the music, which combines elements of German cabaret, English art rock, and European classical music.

For this release, Henry Cow are technically a quartet composed of Greaves, Cutler, guitarist–violinist Fred Frith, and multi-instrumentalist Tim Hodgkinson, who plays clarinet but no organ or saxophone on Desperate Straights. Bassoonist–oboist Lindsay Cooper — who temporarily left Cow and reconnected with Comus — appears as a guest alongside her predecessor Geoff Leigh (flute). Additional guests include Egg bassist Mont Campbell (credited as ‘Muchsin Campbell’ on French horn) and Brotherhood of Breath personnel Mongezi Feza (trumpet) and Nick Evans (trombone). On select tracks, Moore delegates piano to Greaves (“Bad Alchemy”) and Hodgkinson (“Caucasian Lullaby”).

1. “Some Questions About Hats” (1:49)
2. “The Owl” (2:14)
3. “A Worm Is at Work” (1:52)
4. “Bad Alchemy” (3:06)
5. “Europa” (2:48) features Gong percussionist Pierre Moerlen. The lyrics reference Europe a Prophecy, a 1794 prophetic book by English poet William Blake.
6. “Desperate Straights” (4:14)
7. “Riding Tigers” (1:43)

8. “Apes in Capes” (2:14)
9. “Strayed” (1:53)
10. “Giants” (1:57)
11. “Excerpt from The Messiah” (1:48)
12. “In the Sickbay” (2:08)
13. “Caucasian Lullaby” (8:20)

Sessions took place between November 11 and 26, 1974, at The Manor, where Slapp Happy and Henry Cow joint-produced the album with help from Simon Heyworth, who also co-produced and engineered 1974–75 Virgin titles by Clearlight (Clear Light Symphony), Gong (You), and Steve Hillage (Fish Rising). Additional Desperate Straights sessions occurred at London’s Nova Sound Studios.

Blegvad created the lithographs that appear on the Desperate Straights gatefold. The boxed female image on the front cover is part of a larger lithograph on the inner-gate, which depicts a group of oddly attired (and disrobed) people among tree branches. Original copies contain a sixteen-page booklet with group photos, band histories, album information, and illustrations that include a table-slumped man flanked with owls (cover) and a grim diagram titled “The Pataphysical Bass Guitar.”

Virgin’s 1975 label comp V includes “Extract From the Messiah” (credited to Slapp Happy) and “A Worm Is at Work” (credited to Henry Cow) among tracks by Captain Beefheart (“Mirror Man”), Chili Charles, Hatfield & The North (“Your Majesty Is Like a Cream Donut”), Ivor Cutler, Jabula, Kevin Coyne (“Marjory Razorblade”), Mike Oldfield (“Don Alfonso”), Robert Wyatt (“Yesterday Man”), Steve Hillage (“Pentagramaspinn”), Tangerine Dream, Tom Newman, and White Noise.

In Praise of Learning

Henry Cow and Slapp Happy released their second of two collaborative albums, In Praise of Learning, on May 9, 1975, on Virgin. The album presents the two bands as a single eight-piece entity under the Henry Cow nameplate.

In Praise of Learning opens with “War,” a short avant-garde rocker that Slapp Happy guitarist–singer Peter Blegvad and pianist Anthony Moore first pitched for a proposed 1974 Virgin single. Side One also features “Living in the Heart of the Beast,” a fifteen-minute political epic by keyboardist–clarinetist Tim Hodgkinson interspersed with free-form passages.

Side Two contains “Beautiful as the Moon – Terrible as an Army with Banners,” a cabaret rock epic co-written by drummer Chris Cutler and guitarist–violinist (and now xylophonist) Fred Frith. Dagmar Krause sings through the opening note to the fade-out on the seven-minute piece, which Henry Cow bookend with two smouldering instrumentals: “Beginning: The Long March” and “Morning Star,” both joint-credited to the combined band (despite Blegvad’s absence).

1. “War” (2:25) Blegvad plays clarinet on “War,” which features Desperate Straights trumpeter Mongezi Feza and onetime Cow saxophonist Geoff Leigh.
2. “Living in the Heart of the Beast” (15:30)

3. “Beginning: The Long March” (6:26) The title refers to a series of 1934–35 marches led by the Red Army of the Chinese Communist Party.
4. “Beautiful as the Moon – Terrible as an Army with Banners” (7:02)
5. “Morning Star” (6:05)

Sessions took place in February–March 1975 at The Manor, where Henry Cow and Slapp Happy joint-produced the album with help from Phil Becque, who plays oscillator on “Beautiful as the Moon.” Desperate Straights soundman Simon Heyworth engineered “War.”

In Praise of Learning features the Henry Cow faction restored to a five-piece with bassoonist–oboist Lindsay Cooper back in the fold. Anthony Moore plays piano on the first two tracks and delegates the rest to Frith, Hodgkinson (also on Farfisa organ), and bassist John Greaves. Moore also adds electronics and tapework.

In Praise of Learning features the third variation of artist Ray Smith’s Legend sock-art, this time rendered red to reflect the radical nature of the music and lyrics. Original copies repeat the Unrest cross-chain/ribbon illustration on the LP label (Side One). The backside contains lyrics, credits, and a quote in all-caps: ART IS NOT A MIRROR – IT IS A HAMMER — credited to Scottish documentary filmmaker John Grierson but attributed elsewhere to German playwright Bertolt Brecht.

Blegvad and Moore left the merged band upon the album’s completion. Dagmar remained with Henry Cow, effectively dissolving Slapp Happy. The sextet edition of Henry Cow embarked on a joint tour with Robert Wyatt. The two acts toured England, France, and Italy with combined sets that intermixed In Praise of Learning material with songs from Wyatt’s just-released second Virgin album Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard.


In 1976, Henry Cow released Concerts, a live double-album recorded at shows between September 1974 and October 1975 in London, Italy, the Netherlands, and Norway. Concerts appeared on the Virgin subsidiary Caroline (UK) and the Norwegian small-press Compendium (Norway).

Concerts contains three-plus sides by the six-piece Henry Cow lineup of drummer Chris Cutler, bassist John Greaves, organist–saxist–clarinetist Tim Hodgkinson, guitarist–violinist (and occasional xylophonist) Fred Frith, bassoonist–oboist (and now-flutist and recorder player) Lindsay Cooper, and singer Dagmar Krause, who joined from Slapp Happy after the brief two-band merger. Each member (Hodgkinson excepted) takes piano credit.

Concerts features renditions of one song apiece from Henry Cow’s four studio albums: Legend (“Nirvana for Mice”), Unrest (“Ruins”), Desperate Straights (“Bad Alchemy”), and In Praise of Learning (“Beautiful as the Moon – Terrible as an Army with Banners”).

Concerts also contains two improvs (“Oslo,” “Udine”) and two numbers from the repertoire of Robert Wyatt, who performed with Henry Cow on select 1975 live dates. Side Four contains an embryonic “Living in the Heart of the Beast” with improve from a pre-Dagmar 1974 show, performed as a quartet in Cooper’s absence.

Side One (22:50) contains five numbers from an August 1975 Peel Session with Robert Wyatt; recorded at BBC Maida Vale Studio 4 and broadcast on August 18.

1. “Beautiful as the Moon – Terrible as an Army with Banners
2. “Nirvana for Mice
3. “Ottawa Song” is a 1972 Frith–Cutler composition from the days of the Ottawa Music Company.
4. “Gloria Gloom” is a 1972 song by Matching Mole from their second album Little Red Record; co-written by Wyatt and Mole bassist Bill MacCormick.
5. “Beautiful as the Moon (Reprise)

Side Two (25:36) contains performances of the Desperate Straights number “Bad Alchemy” and Wyatt’s “Little Red Riding Hood Hits the Road” from a May 21, 1975, show at the New London Theatre. “Ruin” comes from an October 13, 1975, show at the Palamostre Auditorium in Udine, Italy.

6. “Bad Alchemy” features Wyatt on vocals.
7. “Little Red Riding Hood Hits the Road” originates from Wyatt’s 1974 second solo album Rock Bottom.
8. “Ruins

Side Three (29:02) consists of a single half-hour improv from July 25, 1975, at the Høvikodden Arts Centre in Oslo, Norway.

9. “Oslo

Side Four (26:15) contains two group-credited pieces (sans Cooper) titled “Groningen,” performed on September 28, 1974, at the Vera Club in Groningen, Netherlands; mixed by Sarah Greaves. “Udine” comes from the Palamostre Auditorium show.

10. “Groningen” is an embryonic version of the Hodgkinson epic “Living in the Heart of the Beast” intermixed with group-improvized passages.
11. “Udine” is named after the Italian city where Henry Cow performed this and Ruins at the Palamostre Auditorium.
12. “Groningen Again

Henry Cow self-produced Concerts, which White Noise mastermind David Vorhaus mastered at Kaleidophon Studios, London. Band roadie and sound mixer Maggie Thomas repurposed a Henry Cow concert poster for the Concerts gatefold spread. The inner-gate features a November 16, 1975, live photo of Cow from a show in Fresnes, France.

Concerts first appeared on Compendium Records, a newly formed Norwegian label that also issued 1976 albums by Saluki (self-titled), Vanessa (Black and White), Mirage, Hugh Hopper, and the collaborative release Hi-Fly by Oslo jazz singer Karin Krog and American saxist Archie Shepp.

By the time Concerts hit shelves, Greaves left Henry Cow and teamed with former Slapp Happy guitarist Peter Blegvad on a new avant-jazz vocal project, which became the 1977 Virgin release Kew Rhone, recorded with singer Lisa Herman.

In June 1976, Henry Cow hired cellist Georgie Born, the granddaughter of German–British quantum mechanics innovator Max Born and the cousin of singer Olivia Newton-John. Despite her inexperience with the bass, she accepted the role of bassist–cellist.


In March 1977, Henry Cow merged with the Mike Westbrook Brass Band and folk singer Frankie Armstrong in The Orckestra, a twelve-piece avant-garde jazz band that gave March and June performances in London and twice toured Europe between September 1977 and May 1978. The Orckestra setlist consisted almost solely of Brass Band numbers.

No new material sprung from the Westbrook–Cow union. A live album from a November 1977 Orckestra show was planned but cancelled due to poor sound quality. In 2006, twelve minutes of Orckestra live material surfaced on a bonus 3″ CD given to subscribers of the Henry Cow Box, released on ReR Megacorp. It contains a nameless Frith instrumental and the Cutler–Greaves number “Would You Prefer Us to Lie?” from a May 1978 performance.

In late 1977, tensions arose between Henry Cow and Virgin, which turned its back on the label’s 1973–75 roster (barring Mike Oldfield) in light of the recent Sex Pistols signing. Virgin refused to book new Cow sessions at The Manor. When Cow pointed to their contract clause that specified first-class studio time, Virgin annulled the contract.

During the downtime, Frith played on two tracks (“Energy Fooled the Magician,” “Through Hollow Lands (For Harold Budd)”) on Before and After Science, the 1977 fourth solo vocal album by Brian Eno. Frith also submitted four instrumental pieces to A Random Sampler, a multi-artist comp assembled by American Henry Cow fan Steve Feigenbaum for the Maryland-based Random Radar label, a precursor to Cuneiform. The sampler also contains tracks from Mars Everywhere (“Attack of the Giant Squid”) and The Muffins, one of the earliest US bands with an audible Cow–Hatfield influence.

Art Bears

In January 1978, Henry Cow commenced sessions at Sunrise Studios in Kirchberg, Switzerland. However, conflicts arose over the band’s musical direction. One camp (Cooper, Hodgkison) wanted to make an album of instrumental suites while the other (Cutler, Frith, Krause) leaned toward avant-garde lyrical songs. The two camps agreed to split the ideas into two separate albums.

The six-piece Henry Cow recorded nine songs at Sunrise for Hopes and Fears, released by Cutler, Frith, and Krause under their splinter name Art Bears. Two songs (“On Suicide,” “Joan”) originate from Cow’s 1977 live set. The album also includes four songs recorded in March 1978 at Kaleidophon, London, by the Art Bears trio. Hopes and Fears, was the inaugural release on ReR Megacorp (aka Recommended Records), an avant-garde label that Cutler launched with Cow manager Nick Hobbs.

The January Sunrise sessions also produced two songs earmarked for the instrumental album: the Cooper–Hodgkinson number “½ the Sky” and Tim’s vaulted “Viva Pa Ubu.” These are the last Cow sessions with Georgie Born, who next surfaced (alongside earlier bassist John Greaves) on the December 1978 Charly release Of Queues and Cures, the second album by the Hatfield spinoff National Health.

Rock In Opposition

In March 1978, Henry Cow arranged a festival concert dubbed Rock In Opposition (RIO), which stood for the self-reliance and musical audacity of the acts involved. The event took place on March 12 at the New London Theatre with Cow and four Continental acts:

Henry Cow dissolved after the July–August sessions for their instrumental album. However, the members held a meeting at Sunrise Studios with the four Continental acts to formalize RIO and establish a charter with three guiding principles: adherence to musical excellence; commitment to work outside the industry; and devotion to Rock as a social force. On these grounds, RIO inducted the Art Bears and two additional Continental acts:

Western Culture

Henry Cow released their final studio album, Western Culture, in early 1979 on self-press Broadcast Records. Each side contains a three-part instrumental suite recorded in July–August 1978 at Sunrise Studios in Kirchberg, Switzerland.

Side One, subtitled History and Prospects, features three pieces by Tim Hodgkinson, who plays Farfisa organ, clarinet, alto saxophone, Hawaiian guitar, and piano. Side Two, subtitled Day by Day, features three movements by Lindsay Cooper, who plays bassoon, oboe, soprano saxophone, sopranino, and recorder.

The Cooper–Hodgkinson closing track, “½ the Sky,” is one of two Henry Cow songs (along with the vaulted “Viva Pa Ubu”) recorded during the January Sunrise sessions that produced the debut Art Bears album Hopes and Fears. “½ the Sky” is the only Western Culture song with singer Dagmar Krause and late-period Cow bassist Georgie Born.

The two suites feature a four-piece Cow lineup of Cooper, Hodgkinson, guitarist (and de facto bassist) Fred Frith, and drummer Chris Cutler. Dutch trombonist–violinist Annemarie Roelofs, a late-period Cow live auxiliary, plays on both suites as a musical guest.

History and Prospects
1. “Industry” (6:58)
2. “The Decay of Cities” (6:55)
3. “On the Raft” (4:01) features background brass by Frith (soprano saxophone) and Cutler (trumpet).

Day by Day
4. “Falling Away” (7:38)
5. “Gretels Tale” (3:58) features Swiss free-jazz pianist Irène Schweizer.
6. “Look Back” (1:19)
7. “½ the Sky” (5:14) is titled after a quote by Chairman Mao: “Women hold up half the sky.”

Sessions for the two suites took place between July 27 and August 8, 1978, at Sunrise Studios, where Henry Cow co-produced the album with studio founder Etienne Conod, also credited on Hopes and Fears and concurrent Sunrise recordings by Kleenex, Moira, Munju, and Nautilus.

At the summer Sunrise sessions, Frith submitted “Waking Against Sleep” (2:08), a structured piece that surfaced on the 1990 CD reissue of his 1980 solo album Gravity.

Chris Cutler designed the Western Culture cover, which makes bold, bleak usage of fractured revolutionary symbols. To avoid legal conflicts with Virgin (which still held interests in the Henry Cow brand) he established Broadcast Records solely for this release to keep ReR Megacorp free of legal hassles in the event of a lawsuit. He reactivated Broadcast for eighties-era reissues of Unrest, In Praise of Learning, Concerts, and the first Western Culture CD reissue.

By the early nineties, when Hodgkinson remixed the earlier titles for East Side Digital, Western Culture became a scarce item due to presumed licensing issues and two mishandled CD pressings: one with corruption noise and another miss-pressed with a concert by country singer Little Jimmy Dickens.

Western Culture gained broad availability with 2001–02 reissues on ReR and ESD, both with three bonus tracks: two Cooper miniatures from the summer sessions (“Look Back” and “Slice”) and the January 1978 recording “Viva Pa Ubu,” which features unison vocals by the six-piece lineup.


The Art Bears continued with the 1979 ReR release Winter Songs, a mix of avant freak folk and industrial noise music. It features the lilting oddity “Rats and Monkeys,” which also appeared as a standalone single on the US outside label Ralph Records. Frith, Cutler, and Krause wrapped the Art Bears project with the 1981 title The World As It Is Today, a collection of political cabaret numbers.

Frith and Cutler also appear on the January 1980 Atem release Un Peu De L’Âme Des Bandits, the second album by Mark Hollander’s Aqsak Maboul. It displays a fractious late-period Cow influence (as opposed to the twee nature of Onze Danses). Un Peu also features keyboardist Frank Wuyts and singer Catherine Jauniaux.

Cutler, Frith, Hodgkinson, and Hollander all appear on the 1979 Dutch EP Maximum Penalty by Red Balune, the avant jazz-rock project of Geoff Leigh and partner Cathy Williams. The pair cut a second 1979 EP, The Chemical Bank, with four new wave-influenced songs. They recorded both EPs at Sunrise with Western Culture soundman Etienne Conod. Leigh later teamed with Wuyts on the 1988 album From Here to Drums, released on No Man’s Land (the German branch of ReR).

Fred Frith teamed with American experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser on two albums: With Friends Like These (1979) and Who Needs Enemies? (1983), both released on the free-jazz Metalanguage label. Frith resumed his solo career with the 1980 Ralph release Gravity, a set of quirky avant-rock and folk instrumentals recorded with members of Aqsak Maboul, The Muffins, and Zamla Zammas Manna.

Frith’s next release, 1981’s harder-edged Speechless, features members of Etron Fou Leloublan and Massacre, a jazz-punk trio that Frith formed with bassist Bill Laswell and drummer Fred Maher of the New York No Wave combo Material. Massacre cut the 1981 Celluloid release Killing Time. Frith also plays on the concurrent Material title Memory Serves. Frith also cut improvised discs in collaboration with saxist Lol Coxhill and sound manipulator Bob Ostertag.

In 1983, Frith completed his Ralph trilogy with Cheap at Half the Price, a set of quirky lo-fi pop and zolo. Also that year, he teamed with New York cellist Tom Cora in Skeleton Crew, an avant folk and rock combo that cut the 1984 Recommended title Learn To Talk. They added accordionist Zeena Parkins for the 1986 followup The Country of Blinds, released on No Man’s Land and RecRec, the Swiss branch of ReR Megacorp. Frith briefly joined Cora’s other band, the avant-jazz ensemble Curlew, for their 1985 second album North America. Frith’s next major project was the hi-tech 1988 double-album The Technology of Tears. In 1991, he teamed with ex-Etron bassist–singer Ferdinand Richard on the RecRec disc Dropera, issued as Fred & Ferd.

Chris Cutler appears on the 1979 Ralph release Eskimo, an arctic–ambient title by the American avant-garde band The Residents. He formed Cassiber with three members of the German brass group Sogenanntes Linksradikales Blasorchester: singer–multi-instrumentalist Christoph Anders, keyboardist Heiner Goebbels, and multi-brass player Alfred Harth. They mixed cabaret, free-jazz, and noise rock on the 1982–86 ReR–Riskant albums Man or Monkey, Beauty and the Beast, and Perfect Worlds. Concurrently, Goebbels & Harth cut three Riskant albums as a duo, including the 1981 Bertolt Brecht tribute Zeit Wird Knapp with vocals by Dagmar Krause.

Cutler and Frith reunited for the 1983 improvised disc Live In Prague and Washington, which contains two long pieces from the 8th Prague “Jazz Days” Festival, a May 25 event at the Lucerna Hall in the capital of then-Czechoslovakia.

Lindsay Cooper went solo with the 1980 release Rags, a collection of chamber instrumentals and cabaret vocal pieces commissioned for the historical film The Song of the Shirt with backing by Cutler, Georgie Born, and singers Phil Minton and Sally Potter, Lindsay’s film-making friend from the Feminist Improvising Group. In 1983, the same musicians (with Six Winds drummer Marilyn Mazur) recorded Music From The Golddiggers, the soundtrack to Potter’s surreal women’s film starring Julie Christie. A third collection of commissioned pieces, Music for Other Occasions, appeared in 1986 on No Man’s Land.

Cooper and Cutler both appear on three 1983–85 albums by erstwhile Pere Ubu frontman David Thomas: Winter Comes Home (released on ReR under the group name David Thomas & His Legs) and Variations On a Theme and More Places Forever, both attributed to David Thomas & The Pedestrians.

Tim Hodgkinson formed The Work, a post-punk band with guitarist Bill Gilonis and the rhythm section of Family Fodder: bassist Mick Hobbs and drummer Rick Wilson. They cut a Japanese live album and the 1982 studio disc Slow Crimes, issued on self-press Woof Records with Catherine Jauniaux on four tracks. Tim and Catherine followed with the 1983 collaborative album Fluvial.

In 1984, Cooper and Cutler teamed with Hodgkinson, Gilonis, and Robert Wyatt for two songs (”Moments of Delight,” “In the Dark Year”) on the ReR 12″ The Last Nightingale, pressed to raise money for the UK coal miners strike.

Also in 1984, Cooper, Cutler, Krause, and Zeena Parkins formed News from Babel, a cabaret art-pop band that issued Sirens & Silences / Work Resumed On the Tower, which features appearances by Georgie Born (“Black Gold”) and Minton (two tracks). Gilonis, Potter, and Wyatt appear on their 1986 second album Letters Home.

Minton and Potter sing counterparts on Cooper’s 1989 Cold War cabaret-jazz opera Oh Moscow, recorded at the 7th Victoriaville Festival with backing by Mazur, Alfred Harth, and Hugh Hopper. Copper’s next cabaret-jazz opera, Sahara Dust, appeared in 1993 with Minton and multi-percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky.

Hodgkinson and Hobbs teamed with drummer Andy Wake (Unrest Work & Play) in The Momes, an avant-rock trio that cut the 1989 Woof disc Spiraling. The Work resumed for the 1989–92 albums Rubber Cage and See.

In 1992, Cutler teamed with keyboardist–sampler Lutz Glandien on Domestic Stories, an Art Bears-like thematic disc recorded with Frith, Krause, and Harth.

Hold To The Zero Burn, Imagine

In 1994, Hodgkinson released Each In Our Own Thoughts, his first solo album of composed material. It features “Hold To The Zero Burn, Imagine” (aka “Erk Gah”), the long-unrecorded sixteen-minute Henry Cow concert piece from their 1976–77 setlist.

For the 1993 recording, Tim employed a ten-piece backing band comprised of Cooper, Cutler, Krause, Gilonis, cellist Richard Bolton, trumpeter John Impett, xylophonist Dominic Weeks, ex-Univers Zero bassist Guy Segers, and flutists Clarissa Melville and Nancy Ruffer. Hodgkinson plays keyboards, alto saxophone, and clarinet on the piece.

Hold To The Zero Burn, Imagine” (16:43)



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