Heron was an English folk-rock band from Maidenhead, Berkshire, that released two albums on Dawn during 1970 and 1971. Guitarist G.T. Moore subsequently led the Reggae Guitars, recording assorted singles and three albums on Charisma between 1974 and 1976. Heron regrouped briefly in 1983 and for a longer span in the late 1990s.
Members: Tony Pook (vocals), Roy Apps [Roy Mason Apps] (guitar, vocals), Robert Collins (guitar, 1967-68), G.T. Moore (guitar, mandolin, vocals, 1968-72, ?-present), Martin Hayward (guitar, 1968-70), Steve Jones (keyboards, 1970-present), Terry Clarke, Gerry Power
Heron formed in 1967 at the Dolphin Folk Club in Maidenhead, where singer Tony Pook and guitarist–singer Roy Apps teamed with guitarist Robert Collins. They wrote songs inspired by the Incredible String Band, including the Collins–Pook harmony ballad “Lord and Master.” By 1968, Collins cleared for guitarist–singer Gerald ‘GT’ Moore, the former featured frontman of Reading soul-beatsters The Memphis Gents.
Taking their name from the long-legged freshwater bird, Heron took reel-to-reel demos of their songs to London, where they landed a publishing deal with Essex Music, secured by Gus Dudgeon, a rising industry force with recent production credits behind Bonzo Dog Band, David Bowie, Locomotive, Michael Chapman, Strawbs, and Tea & Symphony.
Bowie — reeling in his recent success with “Space Oddity” — opened a folk club in Beckenham and booked Heron for a showcase.
Heron stabilized with keyboardist Steve Jones, who they first hired as a session musician. The group signed to Dawn, a newly established underground division of Pye. They linked with producer Pete Eden (Donovan, Bill Fay, Mick Softley, Mike Cooper), who initially recorded the band at Pye Studios. Upon playback of two sides intended for a July 1970 single (“River of Fortune,” “Some Kinda Big Thing”), Heron chose to record all future material outdoors on the countryside.
They set up fort in a farmhouse owned by the Pook family in Appleford, Berkshire, and recorded their debut album with the Pye Mobile Unit.
Heron released their self-titled debut album in November 1970 on Dawn. It features eleven proper songs, primarily written by Apps (“Smiling Ladies,” “Little Angel,” “Yellow Roses”) and Moore (“Harlequin 2,” “Little Boy”). Pook co-wrote the numbers “Car Crash” and “Carnival and Penitence.” Each side has a snippet of Woody Guthrie’s “Sally Goodin,”arranged by Moore.
Eden produced Heron with engineers Terry Evennett (Made In Sweden, Michael Gibbs, Paul Brett Sage, Jackie McAuley) and mobile operator Victor Maile (The Kinks, Liverpool Scene). In addition to their primary instruments, Heron employ mandolin (Moore) and accordion (Jones) on select passages. They placed an additional microphone 100 yards away from their instruments to capture the sounds of nature, thus enhancing the organic quality of their music.
“Harliquin 2” (4:15) had two minutes chopped from its recorded running time. An omitted track from the sessions, “Rosalind,” appears on a 2008 CD reissue on the Japanese Wasabi label.
Mike Cooper photographed Heron for the album’s cover shots, which show the members at their country retreat. Heron returned the favor by singing backing vocals on Cooper’s 1970 Dawn release Trout Steel.
Heron promoted their album on a Dawn package tour with Comus, Demon Fuzz, and Titus Groan. The tour, dubbed A Penny Concert, presented the four-act show for the admission price of 1d. Heron’s moment of glory was at the Colston Hall in Bristol, where they played to an audience of 3,000 and drew a standing ovation.
1971: Bye and Bye EP
In January, 1971, Heron taped a session for Radio One DJ John Peel.
That April, they issued a 7″ maxi-single comprised of four songs: two by Moore (“Bye and Bye,” “Through Time”), one by Pook (“I’m Ready To Leave”) and a band arrangement of the Dylan rarity “Only a Hobo.” A fifth song, “Friend,” was omitted and later lost from Dawn’s archives.
Tony Blackburn named the single Record of the Week. Despite play from Peel and Radio Luxembourg’s Kid Jensen, sales of the single were undermined by a vinyl pressing error and a van delivery strike.
On June 3, 1971, Heron backed Bowie for a Radio One concert. The singer did multiple songs from his upcoming fourth album Hunky Dory, including “Queen Bitch,” “Oh You Pretty Things,” “Kooks,” and “Andy Warhol.”
In preparation for their second album, Heron booked a week at West Emlett Cottage, located south of the village of Black Dog.
Twice as Nice & Half the Price
Heron released their second album, Twice as Nice & Half the Price, in November 1971 on Dawn. The title reflected the marketing: a double-album for the price of one. It features 21 songs, including the Moore compositions “Miss Kiss,” “Minstrel and a King,” “Harlequin 5,” “The Devil,” “I Wouldn’t Mind,” and the lengthy “Winter Harlequin” (8:50).
Other contributions include Pook’s “Love 13” and App’s “Your Love and Mine.” The album also includes covers of the Isley Brothers (“This Old Heart of Mine”), Smoke Robinson & the Miracles (“You Really Got a Hold On Me”), and Bob Dylan’s early anti-war anthem “John Brown,” arranged by Moore at an elongated 7:13. The Motown songs were part of Moore’s Memphis Gents repertoire.
Heron are augmented on Twice as Nice by bassist Mike Finesilver, drummer Terry Gittings, and electric guitarist Bill Boazman. Finesilver had co-written songs for the Crazy World of Arthur Brown (“Fire”) and Love Sculpture (“In the Land of the Few”). Cooper adds slide guitar and vocals on select passages. Twice as Nice was produced by Eden and engineered by Evennett and Maile. The album is housed in a gatefold with group photos taken at the country cottage by Mike and Annie Cooper.
Dawn issued Apps’ “Take Me Back Home” as a single (b/w “Minstrel and a King”). Pook’s “Wanderer” appears on the 1971 multi-artist label comp The Dawn Take-Away Concert.
Heron returned to Pye Studios in August 1972 to cut a new single, “If It’s Love.” They shelved the track and drifted apart that same month after their third Radio One session on Sounds of the Seventies, hosted by Bob Harris. At one of their final shows, Moore arrived with a pennywhistle in lieu of his guitar and mandolin.
Moore cut the 1972 Decca solo single “Song of America” (b/w “Wake Up”) as Gerald Thomas Moore. He then formed G.T. Moore and The Reggae Guitars, a funk-reggae septet that released two 1974/75 albums on Charisma. He also did session work for Johnny Nash, Lee “Scratch” Perry, and four albums by Persian singer Shusha. In 1980, he played on Translucence, the singular album by former X-Ray Spex frontwoman Poly Styrene.
Apps released the 1978 solo single “Everytime We Say Goodbye” (b/w “Pearl”) on Safari Records.
Pook later reactivated Heron for the 1998/99 CDs River of Fortune and Hystorical. In 2011, the lineup of Apps, Jones, Moore, and Pook released Simple As One Two Three on the Japanese Nice Folks label.
(Heron is not to be confused with the namesake band fronted by former Incredible String Band member Mike Heron, who renamed his band — initially called Mike Heron’s Reputation — with his surname for the 1977 album Diamond of Dreams, the source of the later Manfred Mann’s Earth Band hit “Don’t Kill It Carol.”)
- Heron (1970)
- Twice as Nice & Half the Price (2LP, 1971)
- Open Up The Road (1983)
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