Icarus

Icarus was an English post-psych hard rock band that cut the 1968 single “The Devil Rides Out” on Spark Records. In 1972, a revised lineup surfaced with the album The Marvel World of Icarus on Pye Records. It features songs about superheroes from the Marvel Universe, as depicted on the cover.

Members: Iain Hills [Iain Hines] (keyboards), Glyn Havard (vocals, bass, 1968-?), Les Carske (lead guitar, 1968-?), Ray Steadman (drums, 1968-?), Peter Curtain (drums, ?-1972), Norrie Devine (saxophone, flute, clarinet, ?-1972), Steve Hart [aka Brian Hart] (vocals, ?-1972), Dave Plotel (guitar), Jon Plotel (bass), Jimmy Wiley (bass, ?-1972), John Etheridge (guitar, ?-1972)


Background

Icarus formed in the spring of 1968 as a two-man project of keyboardist Iain Hines and bassist–singer Glyn Havard.

Havard hailed from the Welsh village of Natyglo, where he played in local beatsters The Chartists and trained as a journalist. In 1966, he moved to London, where he did session work on assorted label fare, including the 1968 Allegro release Popular Cowboy Favourites by Slim Calhoun & The Saddletramps.

Hines grew up in Glasgow, where he provided early backup for Alex Harvey and led a series of bands called The Jets. In May 1960, The Jets flew to Hamburg for a residency at the Kaiserkeller club (preceding The Beatles‘ residency). During his time in Germany, he bonded with fellow UK exile Paul McCartney; the two listened to Everly Brothers records at the flat of Paul’s girlfriend, a Kaiserkeller bartender named Liane. (Iain’s younger brother, actor Frazer Hines, portrayed Doctor Who sidekick Jamie McCrimmon in seasons 4–6 of the BBC sci-fi series.)

During the beat era, Hines worked as a freelance music writer and maintained band memberships in London (The Echoes) and Hamburg (The Krewkats).

When psychedelia took hold in the UK, Iain Hines wrote a song titled “Supersonicelectroniccatastrophicpsychedelicfreakout.” He demoed the song on Denmark Street in a studio located next door to the office of Spark Records, where staffers overheard the session and asked Hines to make a single.


“The Devil Rides Out”

Hines summed Havard and they co-wrote a song inspired The Devil Rides Out, a 1968 British horror film starring Christoper Lee; based on the 1934 occult novel by English author Dennis Wheatley.

In June 1968, “The Devil Rides Out” appeared on Spark Records; backed with “You’re In Life,” another Hines–Havard original. They picked the name Icarus from the pages of FAB-208. (Their original choice, Pegasus, already belonged to another act).

A. “The Devil Rides Out” (2:32)
B. “You’re In Life” (2:55)

Icarus recorded the single with Barry Kingston, the son of Spark founder Robert Kingston. Barry produced “The Devil Rides Out” amid 1968 singles by A New Generation, The Elastic Band, The Fruit Machine, and Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera, whose rhythm section — future Strawbs members John Ford and Richard Hudson (later known as Hudson–Ford) — played backing on these sessions.

With buzz surrounding the namesake film, Icarus appeared as guests of honor at the London premiere of The Devil Rides Out, where the song blasted from the PA during pre-screening.

Icarus became an actual band with drummer Ray Steadman and guitarist Les Karski. However, Hines put them on hold to work with his brother on The Mind Robber, an autumn 1968 five-part Doctor Who serial, in which Iain played a clockwork soldier. He teamed with Frazer on two Season 6 background songs: “Time Traveler” and “Jamie’s Awa In the Time Machine” (with Alex Harvey on sitar).


1969 Sessions

In early 1969, Hines and Havard backed Unit 4 + 2 singer Tommy Moeller on his single “Cookbook” (b/w “Gates”) and joined the band’s late-period lineup alongside (former Tomcats–July) guitarist Tony Duhig.

On July 26, 1969, Icarus recorded two songs, “Yellow Balloon” and “There’s an Easy and a Hard Way,” with Pye Records soundman Cyril Stapleton for an intended single.

“Yellow Balloon” (3:23)
“There’s an Easy and a Hard Way” (3:32)

When Pye cancelled the single, Havard decamped for Persia with Duhig. Upon their return, they formed Jade Warrior with Duhig’s July bandmate Jon Field. Havard released three albums on Vertigo with Jade Warrior, which recorded two additional albums (long vaulted) before Glyn reappeared in Chicory Tip. In 1978, he surfaced in The Edge, a Damned spin-off that backed singers Jane Aire (as The Belvederes) and Kirsty MacColl. After their 1980 album Square 1, Havard joined Yachts.


New Icarus

Iain Hines formed a new Icarus with Unit 4 + 2 drummer Allan Price (not Alan Price, the original Animals keyboardist) and teenage brothers David (guitar) and Jonathan Plotel (bass). They initially served as a continental touring band for singer Billie Davis.

After several months of covers shows with an anonymous singer, Hines played in a cruise-ship band and drafted the drummer, Australian Peter Curtain, recently of Melbourne psych-rockers Party Machine. The Icarus lineup of Hines, Curtain, and the Plotels grew to six with Irish showband saxophonist Norrie Devine and London pub singer Steve Hart.

Hines conceived an album inspired by superheros from the Marvel Universe. Sessions commenced in late 1970 with Pye producer Jack Dorsey. As the project dragged through 1971, the Plotels grew restless and departed for a tour behind singer Darren Wells.

Meanwhile, the Burbank, Calif., label Grit Records issued the standalone Icarus single “Love Is a Thing,” which Hines co-wrote with David Plotel and one Michael Kirsch (backed with the eventual album track “Things Thing”).

A. “Love Is a Thing” (2:41)

As Pye announced the album’s release date, Hines hired guitarist John Etheridge and bassist Jim Wyllie, recently of Carlisle harmony popsters 22nd Street People.


The Marvel World of Icarus

In June 1972, Pye International released The Marvel World of Icarus. It features songs devoted to prominent Marvel characters, including Spider-Man, The Hulk, Iron Man, and Daredevil (represented by his tagline, “The Man Without Fear”). 

Hines lone-wrote four songs (“Conan the Barbarian,” “Iron Man,” “The Man Without Fear,” “Things Thing”) and co-wrote others with Peter Curtain (“Hulk”) and David Plotel (“Captain America”). Plotel wrote “Spiderman”  and co-wrote “Thor” with Hines and Steve Hart (credited as Brian Hart), who wrote “Black Panther” and “Silver Surfer.”

Marvel co-founder Stan Lee gets a co-writing credited on “Fantastic Four.” Side A contains a song about the lesser-known Iron Man villianess Madame Masque, co-written by Brian Cadd and Don Mudie of Australian rustic rockers Axiom.

A1. “Prologue” (0:32)
A2. “Spiderman” (3:25)
A3. “Fantastic Four” (3:19)
A4. “Hulk” (4:00)
A5. “Madame Masque” (3:45)
A6. “Conan the Barbarian” (4:04)
A7. “Iron Man” (2:50)
B1. “Thor” (5:46)
B2. “Black Panther” (3:19)
B3. “The Man Without Fear” (3:55)
B4. “Silver Surfer” (3:55)
B5. “Things Thing” (1:57)
B6. “Captain America” (3:30)

The credits to The Marvel World of Icarus list Icarus as singer Steve Hart, keyboardist Iain Hines, drummer Peter Curtain, reedist–clarinetist Norrie Devine, guitarist John Etheridge, and bassist Jimmy Wiley. However, the last two joined as late-session replacements for David and Jonathan Plotel, who play most of the album’s guitar and bass tracks.

The album’s cover presents presents the title in comic type, surrounded with action illustrations of (counter-clockwise from top left) Spider-Man, Thor, The Thing, Daredevil, Captain America, Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, and the Hulk. Marvel illustrator Jack Kirby, the artist behind several figures shown on the cover, is not listed in the credits. The back cover shows the heads of Icarus members attached to illustrated Marvel characters.

The Marvel World of Icarus appeared abroad on Astor (Australia), Grit (US, Philippines), and Super Sound (Sweden). International pressings vary by shades of blue. Swedish copies replace the title with ICARUS in red-yellow comic type under the Super Sound logo. The original Pye International release appeared on dark burgundy vinyl (noticeable when held against light).

Astor and Grit pressings came in a gatefold with a monochrome inner-gate illustration that depicts the artificially winged Icarus character airborne near a space station with comic captions that hype the album’s contents, stating “Just colour it loud and turn your volume up… the album is open to your very own interpretation, after all, you the listeners are the folks who matter.”


Controversy

Pye purportedly mislead Icarus on the album’s release date, which was slated for June 1972 but pushed to October when the band got booked for a three-month tour of Romania with the sixties pop duo Shirley & Johnny. After Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu halted the tour and deported Icarus back to the UK, Pye told them that Marvel demanded all royalties from the album. Therefore, Pye cancelled The Marvel World of Icarus and destroyed all unsold copies.

However, release records indicate that Pye did, in fact, release the album in June 1972 while Icarus were away in Romania. By the time they returned, The Marvel World of Icarus had come and gone in the marketplace. These revelations only surfaced in the 2000s when archivists researched the story for CD reissues of the album. Those who’ve spoken to the parties involved now speculate that Pye — a pop label with little interest in the post-psych underground — fabricated the story of a Marvel royalties dispute to soft-terminate Icarus. The album’s rarity, therefore, was down to poor distribution and a limited pressing.


Post-Icarus

Etheridge did stints in Darryl Way’s Wolf and Soft Machine. Wiley had an unrecorded one-month stint as one of Roxy Music‘s many bassists. Jonathan Plotel surfaced in Streetwalkers. Dave Plotel joined the backing band of Liverpool soulsters The Real Thing.


Discography:

  • “The Devil Rides Out” / “You’re in Life” (1968)
  • The Marvel World of Icarus (1972)

Sources:

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