Jackson Heights

Jackson Heights was an English band that issued the folk-rock album King Progress on Charisma in 1970. After a lineup change, they moved to Vertigo for the 1972/73 albums The Fifth Avenue Bus, Ragamuffins Fool, and Bump ‘n’ Grind, the latter two influenced by ragtime and music hall.

They were one of three bands — along with Emerson Lake & Palmer and Every Which Way — spawned by late-’60s psych rockers The Nice. Lee Jackson, their namesake frontman, subsequently headed the 1974 Charisma one-off Refugee with Patrick Moraz.

Members: Charlie Harcourt (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Lee Jackson (vocals, guitar, bass, cello), Mario Tapia (bass, guitar, vocals), Brian Chatton (keyboards, vocals), John McBurnie (guitar, vocals, Mellotron), Tommy Sloane (drums, percussion), Michael Giles (drums), Ian Wallace (drums)


Background

Jackson Heights was formed in the spring of 1970 by bassist and singer Lee Jackson, fresh off a three-year, four-album run with The Nice.

Jackson (b. 1943) hailed from Newcastle upon Tyne and got his break in 1965 when he joined The T-Bones, an R&B/beat group that featured singer Gary Farr and keyboardist Keith Emerson. In early 1967, Jackson and Emerson formed The Nice with drummer Brian Davison and guitarist Davy O’List, who stayed for one album.

Between March 1968 and September 1969, they released the albums The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, Ars Longa Vita Brevis, and Nice on Immediate Records. Their fourth album, Five Bridges, was recorded live with the Sinfonia of London orchestra in October 1969. It was released three months after their March 1970 breakup, initiated by Emerson, who found new musical chemistry with King Crimson bassist/singer Greg Lake. The two formed Emerson Lake and Palmer with drummer Carl Palmer, formerly of the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Atomic Rooster. Elsewhere, Davison formed Every Which Way with ex-Skip Bifferty vocalist Graham Bell.

Meanwhile, Jackson formed his own namesake band with drummer Tommy Sloane and Spanish guitarist Mario Enrique Covarrubias Tapia. Sloane hailed from Yellow, which issued the 1970 string-psych single “Roll It Down the Hill” (b/w “Living a Lie”) on CBS. Jackson Heights rounded its initial four-piece lineup with guitarist Charlie Harcourt, fresh off a six-year run with Tyneside legends the Junco Partners.

Jackson Heights signed with Charisma Records, the post-psych label established by Tony Stratton-Smith. Just as Jackson Heights (and ELP) were getting underway, Charisma issued Five Bridges amid a flood of albums by newer talent (Genesis, Lindisfarne, Rare Bird, Van Der Graaf Generator).


1970: King Progress

Jackson Heights released their debut album, King Progress, in October 1970 on Charisma (UK), Philips (Germany), and Les Disques Motors (France). Side one features four group-written originals: “Mr. Screw,” “Since I Last Saw You,” “Sunshine Freak,” and the title track. Side two features two group pieces (“Doubting Thomas,” “Insomnia”) and wraps with an eight-minute rendition of “Cry of Eugene,” written and originally recorded by The Nice on Emerlist Davjack.

Sessions took place at two studios: I.B.C. with engineer Damon Lyon-Shaw (The Factory, Eclection, Pentangle, Rosetta Hightower); and Advision with Eddie Offord, an emerging industry figure with a growing list of recent credits (Amalgam, The Idle Race, Brian Auger & The Trinity, Poet and the One Man Band). Jackson, who plays harmonica and 6/12-string acoustic guitar, delegates bass to Tapia, who shares Spanish guitar duties with Harcourt, whose arsenal includes Harpsichord, Mellotron, organ, piano, and electric guitar. All three share vocal duties. Slone plays timpani, triangle, and congas in addition to drums.

Original copies of King Progress are housed in a gatefold designed by Hipgnosis, the fledgling graphics firm behind recent album covers for Pink Floyd, The Pretty Things, Gun, and the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation. The outer-spread shows hands reaching for miniature globes and floating washing machines at high altitude. Hipgnosis hallmarks on the image include psychedelic color saturation (ala Floyd’s More soundtrack), perspective view (Quatermass), and panorama (Cochise).

The inner-spread has a b&w photo collage and credits with liner notes by Stratton-Smith, who states “if acoustic music is sometimes thought to be the soft white underbelly of Rock, then Lee, Charlie, Tommy, and Mario, give to the figure ribs and muscle.”

Charisma issued a pink-label promo single of “Doubting Thomas” (b/w “Insomnia”). Les Disques Motors paired “King Progress” and “Mister Screw” on 7″ in a sleeve replica of the album cover. “Mister Screw” later appeared on Pop Non Stop, a 1973 Disques Motors comp with cuts by Caravan, Clinic, Andwella, Shampoo, and Livin’ Blues.

The original UK Charisma release of King Progress (CAS 1018) appeared between titles by singer/songwriter Trevor Billmuss (Family Apology) and the second album by Genesis (Trespass). In North America, King Progress appeared on Mercury in February 1971.


1971: Lineup Change, New Label

In May 1971, Jackson Heights toured Germany and Switzerland along with Charisma labelmates Audience and Van Der Graaf Generator, who headlined the 17-date tour on the back of their third album, H to He Who Am the Only One.

That year, Jackson Heights disbanded then reformed with a new lineup comprised of Jackson, keyboardist Brian Chatton, and multi-instrumentalist John McBurnie.

Chatton’s career stretched back to The Warriors, a mid-’60s beat group noted as the starting vehicle of Jon Anderson. In 1969, Chatton surfaced in Flaming Youth, which made the psychedelic concept album Ark 2 on Fontana. That band ended when their drummer, Phil Collins, joined Genesis in the summer of 1970.

McBurnie hailed from Justine, a folk-psych band that released a self-titled album on UNI in 1970. The band’s co-singer, American Laurie Styvers, released two solo albums on Chrysalis in 1972/73.

The new three-man Jackson Heights signed to Vertigo without a drummer. For their label debut, they used drummer Michael Giles from the original lineup of King Crimson, which disbanded for the same reason as The Nice. After the tour behind In the Court of the Crimson King, their singing bassist Greg Lake met Jackson’s bandmate, Keith Emerson, and the two formed ELP. Meanwhile, Giles teamed with KC colleague Ian McDonald for the 1970 Island release McDonald and Giles.


1972: The Fifth Avenue Bus

In May 1972, the reconstituted Jackson Heights released The Fifth Avenue Bus on the Vertigo “swirl” label (UK, Germany, Australia, Japan). McBurnie wrote or co-wrote eight of the album’s 10 songs, including “Tramp,” “Sweet Hill Tunnel,” “Laughing Gear,” “House In the Country,” and “Rent a Friend.” Jackson contributed “Luxford” and collaborated with McBurnie on “Dog Got Bitten,” “Long Time Dying,” and “Pastor Roger.”

The side one centerpiece, “Autumn Brigade,” was composed by pianist Lawrie Wright, who plays on the tracks “Long Time Dying,” “Sweet Hill Tunnel,” and “House In the Country.” The opener on side two, “Laughing Gear,” features pianist Dave Watts (Affinity) and guitarist Roger McKew (Judd, The World), who also plays on “Luxford.”

Jackson co-produced The Fifth Avenue Bus at Trident Studios with Al Shepheard. McBurnie plays 6/12-string acoustic guitar and sundry Latin percussion. Chatton’s arsenal consists of piano, organ, and Mellotron. Jackson resumes his bassist role and also handles acoustic guitar, congas, and electric cello. All three sing and harmonize.

The Fifth Avenue Bus lists two main engineers, Dave Hentschel and Ted Sharp, plus technical assistants Dave Hodge and “Kipper” (aka Howard Thompson). Hentschel worked on 1971/72 albums by Al Stewart, Home, Mott the Hoople, Genesis (Nursery Cryme), and Van Der Graaf Generator (Pawn Hearts). Sharp‘s prior credits include titles by The Peddlers, Gypsy, and the Bee Gee‘s 1969 double-album Odessa. Hodge, a recently hired tape op at Trident, worked the following year with Jonathan Kelly. Kipper’s 1972 credits include titles by Van Morrison, Frank Zappa, America (“Saturn Nights”), and David Bowie (“John I’m Only Dancing”).

Original copies of The Fifth Avenue Bus are housed in a gatefold sleeve spanned with a cross-street photograph of the titular vehicle (uncredited but presumably taken from ). The bus sports posters of ads for Suntory whiskey, Kent cigarettes (both front), Metromedia Radio 1130 ‘WNEW YORK GIANTS’, and an upcoming Broadway Theatre staging of Fiddler On the Roof. The vertical inner-spread has a posed, wind-blown shot of the trio against a black backdrop. Jackson sports a white leisure suit and pink shirt. The photographer, Roger Stowell, would also take the photographs for Bump ‘n’ Grind, Refugee, and albums by Vinegar Joe and Stealers Wheel.

The Fifth Avenue Bus appeared in France on Les Disques Motors and Sweden on Sonet. On Swedish and Germany pressings, the band are standing in the doorway of the bus. In Japan, the album came in a single sleeve with the bus shrunk below a medium cut of Stowell’s photograph.


Ragamuffins Fool [aka Jackson Heights]

Jackson Heights released their second Vertigo album, Ragamuffins Fool, in late 1972 (UK only). It marks the writing debut of Chatton, who co-wrote one song with Jackson (“Catch a Thief”) and five with McBurnie, including “As She Starts,” “Bebop,” and “Bellyful of Water.” Jackson lone-wrote the fingerpicking penultimate track “Poor Peter,” which features bluegrass musicians Keith Harris (banjo) and Oli Oliver (fiddle). Maureen,” the album’s piano-sparkling opener, is a group-written number.

Ragamuffins Fool contains the band’s second appropriation of a Nice number: the Jackson/Emerson composition “Chorale,” originally the 3rd bridge of the Five Bridges Suite.

Jackson and Shepherd co-produced Ragamuffins Fool at Phonogram Studios with engineer Chris Harding, a former drummer (Christine Perfect Band) who also worked on 1973 albums by folksters Evensong and German rockers Atlantis.

Ragamuffins Fool features three drummers: sessionist Laurie ‘Gollox’ Jay (title track), Race McLeod (“Poor Peter”), and Giles (everything else). Double-bassist Mo Fletcher plays on “As She Starts.” Session harpist Mox Gowland (Mayfield’s Mule) appears on the two Americana tracks. Chatton and McBurnie are both credited with Mellotron.

Artist Grahame Berney designed the cover: a folksy illustration of a girl looking out from a lumpy hill over a cottage-laden valley, enframed in brown with woodsy nameplates, doves, and rose vines. The back shows the village close-up with the elfin girl and her snail friend at the fore. Original pressings came with a poster of the near-silhouetted trio. Berney’s other credits from the timeframe include album visuals for Mainhorse, Shelagh McDonald, Steeleye Span, Stray, and Stud.

In 1973, Vertigo issued Ragamuffins Fool in Spain and Italy. The Spanish pressing forgoes most of Berney’s visuals, placing outlines of the doves and nameplate against a beige backdrop. Stateside, the album appeared on Verve Records as Jackson Heights. Verve copies sport an assortment grid of red-tinted group and member pics with credits in the blue trapezium (front and back).

The Fifth Avenue Bus and Ragamuffins Fool appeared just ten numbers apart (067 and 077) in Vertigo’s 6360 series, bookending titles by Gentle Giant (Three Friends), Black Sabbath (Vol. 4), Catapilla (Changes), Beggars Opera (Pathfinder), and Ian Carr (Belladonna).

Vertigo issued “Maureen” as a single in the UK (b/w “Long Time Dying”) and the Netherlands (b/w “Ragamuffins Fool”). The song later appeared on 16 Vertigo Hits, released in 1975 as part of the label’s Bingo! series with cuts by Status Quo, Jade Warrior, Lucifer’s Friend, Magna Carta, Neon Rose, the Spencer Davis Group, and select aforementioned labelmates.


1973: Bump ‘n’ Grind

The trio Jackson Heights released their third and final album, Bump ‘n’ Grind, in 1973 on the Vertigo spaceship label (UK, France, Italy). It features two solo writes apiece by Chatton (“Spaghetti Sunshine,” “Public Romance”) and McBurnie (“Long Necked Lady,” “Bump and Grind”), plus three co-writes: “Cumberland Country,” “It’s a Shame,” and “Ladies in the Chorus.”

McBurnie co-wrote the opening track, “I Could Be Your Orchestra,” with producer/arranger Hugh Murphy (Diabolus, Gracious, Gerry Rafferty, Jody Grind). “Whatever Happened to the Conversation,” the harmonized gallop that closes the album, is a group-written number.

Jackson produced Bump ‘n’ Grind with engineers Harding and Roger Wake, a prolific Philips/Phonogram tech (Cochise, Czar, Nucleus, Wizzard) whose credits stretch to psych-era titles by Kaleidoscope, The Move, and Ambrose Slade.

Bump ‘n’ Grind features arrangements on select numbers by Ian Green, who conducts an orchestra comprised of 12 violinists, four violists, and four cellists. Jazz violinist Johnny Van Derrick (Tumbleweed Connection, Can I Have My Money Back?) is the featured soloist. Derrick also played on 1973 albums by Jaki Whitren, Lynsey De Paul, and Sundance. One of the backing violinists, Godfrey Salmon, played on the three Esperanto albums and worked with Caravan as part of the New Symphonia. Salmon later did arrangements on ELP’s two 1977 albums, Works Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Jackson’s erstwhile Nice colleague, Keith Emerson, is credited with Moog synthesizer programming. McKew returns on “Cumberland Country.” Additional guests include bassist Chris Laurence (Alan SKidmore, Gordon Giltrap) and banjoist Billy Bell (Richard Harris, Hudson-Ford).

Bump ‘n’ Grind features two drummers: Giles (mostly side one) and fellow KC alumni Ian Wallace, who played with Chatton in The Warriors and landed in Crimson for the 1971 album Islands. Chatton adds several instruments to his arsenal, including clarinet, celesta, electric pianette, and tubular bells.

Stowell took the gatefold photographs. The outspread shows model and actress Anne Goddet reclining in pearls and stockings in the back of a 1920s box car with the three members looking in. On the inner-spread, each member schmoozes with Goddet in separate pics amid an Art Deco layout. Stowell conceived the cover with designer Fabio Nicoli, also credited with visuals on 1973/74 albums by Chris De Burgh, Groundhogs (Solid), John Martyn, Magma (Köhntarkösz), Shoot, Stray Dog, Supertramp (Crime of the Century), and Tempest.

In France, Vertigo paired “Spaghetti Sunshine” and “Public Romance” onto a blue-label promo single. “Bump ‘n’ Grind” appears on Suck It and See, a 1973 Scandinavian Vertigo comp with cuts by Gentle Giant (“Boys In the Band”), Black Sabbath (“Paranoid”), Rod Stewart (“Gasoline Alley”), the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, and several aforementioned labelmates.


After Jackson Heights

In 1974, Lee Jackson reteamed with Brian Davison in the symphonic-rock trio Refugee, in some respects a reformed Nice with ex-Mainhorse keyboardist Patrick Moraz in lieu of Emerson. The project generated one self-titled album on Charisma but ended soon after when Moraz, quickly recognized as a world-class virtuoso, got drafted as Rick Wakeman‘s replacement in Yes.

Brian Chatton played on the 1974 Island release In Search of Eddie Riff by Roxy Music saxophonist Andy MacKay. In 1975, he played on Squire, the second solo album by Lindisfarne frontman Alan Hull. That same year, Chatton joined rustic rockers Snafu for their third album All Funked Up. During 1976/77, he played on soundtrack albums to the two seasons of ITV’s Rock Follies, both comprised of songs written and produced by MacKay.

Also in 1976, Chatton played on albums by Baker Gurvitz Army, Pat Travers, and Brian Parrish (who played guitar in Badger along with another ex-Warrior, bassist David Foster). In 1979, Chatton guested on the namesake album by McBurnie’s latest venture, Vapour Trails. He also played on More Miles Per Hour, the Alan Parsons-produced fourth album by John Miles.

In 1980, Chatton recorded his own album titled Vapour Trails, a Music De Wolfe release comprised of library instrumentals. The following year, he made the pop-vocal solo album Playing for Time on RCA. After appearances on early ’80s albums by Jack Green, Kelly Lynch, and P.J. Borowsky, he formed the synthpop combo Boy’s Don’t Cry, which charted with the 1985/86 singles “Cities on Fire” and the transatlantic novelty “I Wanna Be a Cowboy.”

John McBurnie contributed vocals and lyrics to The Story of i, the 1976 debut solo album by Patrick Moraz. In 1977, he notched credits on the second solo albums by Arthur Brown (guitar on Chisholm In My Bosom) and Moraz (vocals and lyrics on Out In the Sun). During 1979 and 1980, while heading the Vapour Trails project, he wrote lyrics for Camel (“Wait”), the Joachim Kühn Band, and Moraz/Kühn guitarist Ray Gomez. As a producer, McBurnie worked with mid-’80s dance-pop singer Eugenie Arrowsmith.

Original Jackson Heights guitarist Charlie Harcourt joined American roots rockers Cat Mother for their 1973 release Last Chance Dance. He then joined Lindisfarne for their 1973/74 albums Roll On, Ruby and Happy Daze. When the two factions, Hull and Jack the Lad, mended in 1978, Harcourt played on the reformed Lindisfarne’s albums up through 1982, plus the contemporary solo work of mandolinist Ray Jackson.

In 1976, German Fontana issued Attention! Jackson Heights! as part of its Attention!/Fontana Special series. It collects 12 tracks from the three Vertigo albums with cover imagery derived from Fifth Avenue Bus and Ragamuffins Fool.


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