Les Fleur de Lys

Les Fleur de Lys were an English mod-psych band from Southampton that released a string of singles on Immediate, Polydor, and Atlantic between 1965 and 1969, including one apiece under the alternate names Shyster, Rupert’s People, and The Chocolate Frog. Bassist Gordon Haskell launched a seventies solo career amid brief memberships in King Crimson and Stackridge.

Members: Keith Guster (drums), Frank Smith (guitar, vocals, 1964-66), Alex Chamberlain (organ, 1964-66), Danny Churchill (bass, 1964-65), Gordon Haskell (bass, 1965-68), Phil Sawyer (guitar, 1966), Chris Andrews (vocals, 1966-67), Pete Sears (keyboards, 1966-67), Bryn Haworth (guitar, vocals, 1966-69), Tony Head (vocals, 1968-69), Tago Byers (bass, 1968-69), Graham Maitland (guitar, 1969)


Background

Les Fleur de Lys formed in late 1964 in Southampton, Hampshire, where local band manager Dave Jay assembled singer–guitarist Frank Smith, organist Alex Chamberlain, bassist–singer Danny Churchill, an drummer Keith Guster. Their name is French for The Flower of Lilies. (In heraldry, the fleur-de-lys is a gold decorative symbol used by French royalty.)

The Fleurs gigged the south-west club circuit and impressed Tony Calder, who partnered with Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham in the startup label Immediate Records, which signed the band.


“Moondreams”

On November 5, 1965, Les Fleur de Lys debuted with the single “Moondreams,” a Buddy Holly cover backed with “Wait for Me,” a studio instrumental titled after a group original. Session guitarist and budding soundman Jimmy Page produced both sides.

“Moondreams” is a 1957 song written by Buddy Holly’s producer , Norman Petty, who first released it under the monicker Norman Petty Trio with Holly on guitar. Holly’s own 1958 version appeared on the b-side of his posthumous 1960 UK single “True Love Ways.”

Les Fleur de Lys were reluctant about “Moondreams” but eager to cut their original “Wait for Me,” a popular live number. However, the finished record contained a namesake instrumental performed by session musicians. The experience dismayed Churchill, who dropped from the music industry.


Lineup Change

The Fleurs hired bassist–singer Gordon Haskell, who played in the backing band of The Dowlands, the Bournemouth vocal duo of brothers David and Gordon Dowland, who also employed the local rhythm section of brothers Peter and Michael Giles.

The Fleurs embarked on a tour of Germany, where they met guitarist Phil Sawyer, a current member of Johnny Deen & The Deacons who played earlier in Columbia Records beatsters The Cheynes with (future Camel) keyboardist Peter Bardens and (future Fleetwood Mac) drummer Mick Fleetwood.

Within days, Chamberlain quit the band. The Fleurs lineup of Guster, Smith, Haskell, and Sawyer completed the tour and returned home to cut their second Immediate single.


“Circles”

On March 18, 1966, Les Fleur de Lys released “Circles,” a Who cover backed with the Saywer–Smith original “So, Come On.” Calder produced the single (IM 032), which appeared between Immediate titles by The Turtles and Twice as Much.

“Circles” is a song that Pete Townshend wrote as an intended followup single to “My Generation” and its namesake parent album. However, “Circles” got tied in litigation when The Who changed labels and producers.

Les Fleur de Lys relocated to London, a move that prompted Smith’s exit. They replaced him with Saywer’s friend, guitarist–singer Chris Andrews. They also hired keyboardist Pete Sears, recently of beatsters Sons of Fred. Guster was now the only original member.

The Fleurs switched management to Nicky Wright and Kenny Barker, two London scenesters that linked them with UK Atlantic head Frank Fenter, husband of South African pop-soul singer Sharon Tandy, who employed The Fleurs as her backing band. Meanwhile, the new lineup (Guster, Haskell, Sawyer, Andrews, Sears) singed to Polydor and cut a third Fleurs single.


“Mud In Your Eye”

On November 4, 1966, Les Fleur de Lys released “Mud In Your Eye,” an Andrews–Sawyer mod rocker backed with The Impressions cover “I’ve Been Trying.”

“I’ve Been Trying” is a Curtis Mayfield song that first appeared on The Impression’s 1964 ABC-Paramount release Keep On Pushing. It reappeared as the global b-side to their 1965 hit “People Get Ready.”

Fenter co-produced the single with John Timperley, a soundman for Cream, The Herd, and Trinity.

In December, Sawyer left The Fleurs and reteamed with Bardens in Shotgun Express, a short-lived R&B group with singers Beryl Marsden and Rod Stewart. In 1967, Sawyer joined the Eddie Hardin edition of the Spencer Davis Group. The Fleurs hired teenage guitarist Bryn Haworth.


Sharon Tandy – “Hold On”, “Daughter of The Sun”

In early 1967, Les Fleur de Lys gigged the UK club curcuit and doubled and Sharon’s backing band. They backed her on an Advision acetate cover of “Toe-Hold,” a recent Johnnie Taylor side (written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter) that she recut as an Atlantic a-side with producer Tom Dowd. As The Fleurs accepted session work, Sears decamped to Sam Gopal’s Dream and later surfaced in Rod Stewart’s solo backing band.

Guster, Haskell, and Haworth back Sharon on her July 1967 single “Stay With Me,” a soul cover backed with “Hold On,” a mod-psych number written by Haskell, Haworth, and session drummer Howard Conder (The Barron Knights, The Moontrekkers, Unit 4 + 2).

“Stay With Me” is a song by Jerry Ragovoy (aka Norman Meade, writer of the Rolling Stones hit “Time Is On My Side”) and George David Weiss; first recorded as a 1966 Warner a-side by Philly soul singer Lorraine Ellison.

In October 1968, Atlantic reissued “Hold On” as an a-side, backed with another track from the same sessions: “Daughter of the Sun,” a theatrical psych rocker by English songwriters Brian Potter (“One Tin Soldier,” “Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I Got)”) and Graham Dee, whose band Waygood Ellis employed The Fleurs on the 1967 Polydor a-side “I Like What I’m Trying To Do.”

“Hold On” was later covered by London psych rockers Ipsissimus on a 1969 Parlophone single; and by Liverpool new wavers Bette Bright & the Illuminations on their 1981 Korova album Rhythm Breaks the Ice.

Fenter co-produced “Stay With Me” with Carlos Olms, a soundman on solo albums by (ex-T-Bones) Gary Farr and (ex-Action) singer Reg King. Select copies swap Haworth’s name on the writing credits of “Hold On” with Rod Lynton, a Conder associate whose band Sweet Thing cut the 1967 Columbia psych single “All So Long Ago” (b/w “Charlie Brown”). Lynton sought musicians to re-record the b-side in the vein of Procol Harum.


Rupert’s People – “Reflections of Charles Brown”

In July 1967, Columbia issued “Reflections of Charles Brown,” a re-worked version of Lynton’s Sweet Thing b-side, arranged here as a slow organ-psych ballad akin to “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” the transatlantic spring hit by Procol Harum. The Fleurs recorded “Reflections” under the moniker Rupert’s People.

The b-side is an alternate take on “Hold On” with vocals by Chris Andrews. In Germany and Canada, “Reflections” has a different b-side: “Love/Opus 193,” a mid-tempo blues rocker (in G) that Conder co-wrote with Smoke drummer Geoff Gill.

“Reflections of Charles Brown” reached No. 14 in Australia. In light of this success, Lynton summed Sweet Thing members for two further Columbia singles under the name Rupert’s People: the October 1967 release “Prologue to a Magic World” (b/w “Dream On My Mind”) and the March 1968 single “I Can Show You” (b/w “I’ve Got the Love”).

Chris Andrew left The Fleurs after the “Reflections” / “Hold On” sessions. Under the name Tim Andrews, he cut the 1967 Parolophone single “Sad Simon Lives Again,” backed with the Haskell composition “You Won’t Be Seeing Me Anymore.” He then teamed with songwriter Paul Korda on three 1968–69 Parlophone singles. In 1979, Andrews resurfaced as Kris Ryder with a new wave album on Decca.

Now a trio (Guster, Haskell, Haworth), The Fleurs cut their second of three Polydor singles.


“I Can See a Light”

On September 22, 1967, Les Fleur de Lys released “I Can See a Light,” backed with “Prodigal Son,” both Haskell–Haworth originals (the a-side label credits engineer Mike Noble and one ‘Pregnalato’).


Shyster – “Tick Tock”

On the same day “I Can See a Light” hit shelves, Fenter issued two Fleurs tracks under the name Shyster: “That’s a Hoe Down,” a pop cover backed with the Haskell original “Tick Tock.”

“That’s a Hoe Down” is an Albert Hammond song first performed by Australian pop singer Lynne Randell.

Eager for a proper singer, The Fleurs hired Haskell’s old Bournemouth friend Tony Head, who (as Tony Simon) cut the 1967 single “Gimme a Little Sign” (b/w “Never Too Much Love”) on Track Record, the label of Who manager Kit Lambert.


“Gong With the Luminous Nose”

In May 1968, Les Fleur de Lys released their third Polydor single: “Gong With the Luminous Nose,” a group-credited Haskell number backed with the Haskell–Haworth “Hammer Head.”

Between the completion and release of this single, Haskell decamped to The Flowerpot Men, a studio-based pop-psych group that charted beforehand with “Let’s Go to San Francisco.” The Fleurs hired bassist Tago Byers of Reading R&B–beatsters The Moquettes.

Atlantic Records boss Ahmet Ertegun caught a show by the new Fleurs lineup (Guster, Haworth, Head, Byers) and offered them a deal. Meanwhile, they played on seven songs on Sing, the only solo album by songwriter John Bromley.


“Stop Crossing the Bridge”

On June 21, 1968, Les Fleur de Lys released their first of three Atlantic singles: “Stop Crossing the Bridge” backed with “Brick By Brick (Stone By Stone),” both Dee–Potter compositions.

On the side, Head (as Dave Antony) cut a second solo single: the Mercury release “Race With the Wind” (b/w “Hide and Seek”).


Chocolate Frog – “Butchers and Bakers”

In late August, Fenter issued two recent Fleurs recordings under another pseudonym, Chocolate Frog. The Atlantic single contains “Butchers and Bakers,” a song by South African songwriter Terry Dempsey; first recorded by Johannesburg beatsters The Staccatos. The b-side, “I Forgive You,” is another Dee–Potter song.

That fall, The Fleurs embarked on a UK tour with The Beach Boys.


“Liar”

On February 14, 1969, Les Fleur de Lys released “Liar,” backed with “One Girl City,” both Haworth–Potter songs.


“Two Can Make It Together”

On April 18, 1969, The Fleurs released their final single: a collaboration with Sharon billed as Tony and Tandy With The Fleur-De-Lys. The single featires “Two Can Make It Together,” a Dee–Potter song backed with “The Bitter and the Sweet,” which the Dee and Potter co-wrote with American soul singer Donnie Elbert.

Just as the single gained traction, Guster sustained injuries from a roadside accident that left him waylaid for three months.


Breakup

By the time Guster recovered, Les Fleur de Lys dissolved. Sharon fell ill and dropped from the scene. Fenter moved to the US and founded Capricorn Records, which housed a slew of seventies acts (Allman Brothers, Captain Beyond, Easy Street, White Witch).

Bryn Haworth departed for California, where he played for a time with ex-Blue Cheer guitarist Leigh Stephens, who also played with Sears in the band Silver Metre. In 1972, Haworth played on albums by Gerry Lockran, Jackie Lomax, and Nicholas Greenwood. Between 1974 and 1979, he released two albums each on Island and A&M. He subsequently made albums for the CM labels Chapel Lane, MYRRH, and Kingsway Music.

Keith Guster and Tago Byers did late-period stints in Polydor popsters The Amboy Dukes (not the American band with Ted Nugent). 

After his stint in the Flowerpot Men, Gordon Haskell cut his first solo album, the 1969 CBS release Sail in My Boat. He then joined King Crimson for their two 1970 albums, In the Wake of Poseidon and Lizard. His second solo album, It Is and It Isn’t, appeared in 1971 on Atco. In 1975, he release with Stackridge and lent them his song No One’s More Important Than the Earthworm,” which appears on their 1975 album Extravaganza. After twenty-five years of sporadic activity, Haskell scored a UK No. 2 hit with the Christmas 2001 single “How Wonderful You Are.”


Archival Compilations

In 1997, UK archivists Blueprint issued Reflections, a 24-song CD that collections Les Fleur de Lys single sides and pseudonymous releases. It contains their first seven a- and b-sides (stopping short of the Tony and Tandy single), plus both sides of the Chocolate Frog single, the Shyster b-side (“Tick-Tock”), the Waygood Ellis cut (“I Like What I’m Trying To Do”), plus two songs each behind Sharon Tandy (“Hold On,” “Daughter of the Sun”), John Bromley (“Sugar Love,” “So Many Things”), and their two recordings as Rupert’s People (“Reflections of Charlie Brown,” “Hold On”).

In 2021, UK archivists Acid Jazz issued Circles: The Ultimate Fleur De Lys, a 25-song CD that includes the band’s a- and b-sides, plus the Shyster track and one side apiece from the Chocolate Frog (“I Forgive You”) and Rupert’s People (“Hold On”) singles. It drops the Bromley, Sharon Tandy, and Waygood Ellis numbers but adds the Tony and Tandy single, plus one Fred Smith-era outtake (“I Walk the Sands”), three Sharon-sung tracks (“Love Them All,” “Gotta Get Enough Time,” “Yeah, I Do Love You”), a Temptations cover (“You’ve Got to Earn It”), and the Fenter–Noble mystery track “Nothing to Say.”


Discography:

  •  Reflections (1996, recorded 1965–68)

Sources:

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